King County, Seattle, state leaders launch coalition to plan behavioral healthcare network

Executives say thousands of people in King County need behavioral health care — but right now there’s no place to just walk in and get it.

SEATTLE — King County is facing a behavioral health care crisis, according to city, county and state leaders.

Thousands of people need care and there is nowhere they can easily go and get it.

On Thursday, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell joined other local leaders and partners to announce the launch of a coalition to address several urgent behavioral health needs.

Specifically, Constantine noted that the goals were to build a regional network of nursing centers, prevent the closure of existing nursing homes, and build a sustainable nursing workforce.

“There isn’t a single walk-in behavioral health facility in King County,” Constantine said. “The only options are congested emergency rooms and very often jail, [which] We don’t accept.”

Naomi Morris, a nurse on the Downtown Emergency Service Center’s PACT team and a member of SEIU 1199NW, a healthcare workers’ union, says change is needed not only to build more facilities, but to support existing workers .

“We can’t just expand it, we have to fix what’s broken, and if I’m going to be honest with you, I’m a part of what’s broken, and [so is] every other behavioral health professional because the system put us in an impossible situation,” Morris said. “We work with case numbers that are impossible to cope with.”

King County says only one behavioral crisis facility is currently operating with 46 beds for the entire county, and inpatient treatment beds are steadily declining. The county says there were 355 beds for inpatient mental health care in 2018, but today only 244 beds are available. In 2022, people in King County will wait an average of 44 days for a mental health inpatient bed, according to county data.

Konstantin says the goal is to implement the coalition’s plans at the time of his budget proposal. King County, Seattle, state leaders launch coalition to plan behavioral healthcare network

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