King County Executive Constantine unveils behavioral health plan

The plan would be paid for by a property tax levy and must be approved by King County voters.

SEATTLE — King County leaders on Monday unveiled a $1.25 billion behavioral health plan aimed at increasing inpatient treatment beds and strengthening the workforce.

The plan would create a network of five crisis centers, provide funding to recruit and retain behavioral health professionals in the community, and increase the number of inpatient treatment beds.

It would be paid for with a nine-year property tax levy, subject to voter approval. The levy would cost mid-range homeowners about $121 in 2024, according to the King County Bureau of Management. It would last until 2032.

King County Council is expected to vote on the proposal in February. If approved, the tax collection would appear on the April 2023 ballot.

Under the plan, the new regional crisis centers would provide walk-in access and possible short-term stays to help people stabilize. A center would specifically serve the youth. Until these centers can open, the county plans to use tax revenues to fund mobile or location-based behavioral health services for crisis situations.

Since 2018, King County has experienced a “dramatic” loss of inpatient treatment beds, which the county said has fallen from 355 beds to 244 beds in four years. The plan aims to “preserve and restore” these beds.

Finally, the proposal would create apprenticeship programs and access to higher education, skills, training and decent wages to support behavioral health workers.

Providers say the county’s ability to respond to behavioral health crises in King County is itself in crisis.

“The behavioral health system in this state has long been underfunded and underappreciated,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. “The pandemic has added stress and demand is increasing even as we lose both treatment beds and skilled workers.”

Currently, there is no walk-in behavioral health care facility in King County, and there is only one 46-bed behavioral health care facility for the entire county. The Downtown Emergency Service Center Crisis Resolution Center, which is the county’s only volunteer resource for crisis facilities, requires a referral due to limited capacity.

In July, people waited an average of 44 days for a mental health inpatient bed, according to the county. King County Executive Constantine unveils behavioral health plan

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