Benton and Franklin Co. Commissioners exchange hostility in ment - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Benton and Franklin Co. Commissioners exchange hostility in mental health meeting

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KENNEWICK, WA. -- Commissioners from Benton and Franklin Counties met Thursday morning to talk about mental health services in our area. But the meeting was more than just business as usual, with tense exchanges further complicating an increasingly unfriendly relationship.

Thursday's meeting was called to discuss getting a third party contractor to run the regional behavioral health care service. It quickly turned into a hostile, tense local government meeting. 

The meeting room in the Benton County Justice Center was filled and there was no shortage of emotion in what these people told commissioners about the state of mental health care in the Tri-Cities. 

"My son blew his head off," one woman said. "I found him at 10 o'clock in the morning after an all night search for him and looking for people to help me. There's nobody out there to help you."

"We need to fix this," Kenneth Taylor said. "We don't need to put a patch on it. We don't need to put a band-aid on it. We need to fix it."

After that, tension rose. First, former Benton County Commissioner Claud Oliver spoke to the current commissioners. Claud has been very critical of local mental health services in the past and has voiced strong opinions at meetings. Thursday, Commissioner Jerome Delvin had enough. 

"Are we going to 'frick' around with this much longer," Commissioner Delvin asked. "I mean seriously people! I'll be honest with you Claud, you're good at coming, stirring up stuff and then 'boom', you're out the fricking door Claud! Yeah you are. I'll be brutally honest with you Claud. I'm interested in solving this OK?"

Both counties agreed to get out of their current contract with Greater Columbia Behavioral Health Services to open the door for a new contractor for mental health. Benton County then passed a motion to appoint the two chairmen of the boards to work with consultants to develop a plan for mental health care.

"Your motion isn't binding on us so that's fine," Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck said. 

"That's OK," Benton County Commissioner James Beaver replied. "You're going to find something to argue about anyways. It don't matter."

"I'm going to let that pass," Commissioner Peck said in response. 

"Seemed like it was kind of tense between both Benton and Franklin Counties today," we said to Commissioner Peck after the meeting ended. 

"My role as a commissioner is to remain respectful and professional and represent the interests of my constituents, my bosses," Commissioner Peck said. "And I feel like I did that today. As for anybody else, I can't and won't be responsible for their behavior."

"I think Commissioner Beaver summed it up last week," Commissioner Delvin said. "You've got a partnership between two counties and we're in the middle of the river drowning because of that partnership. We're trying to figure it out but you've got to have commitments."

During that intense meeting, both groups of commissioners agreed to bring in two consultants to help them develop a mental health program. Commissioner Peck from Franklin County was pleased with the outcome, while Commissioner Delvin from Benton County thought it was a step in the wrong direction.

There's no doubt there's more to come from this issue in the future.