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caption: King County Executive Dow Constantine talks to reporters, Wednesday, March 4, 2020, during a news conference in Seattle.
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King County Executive Dow Constantine talks to reporters, Wednesday, March 4, 2020, during a news conference in Seattle.
Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

'We don't have the resources, but we do see the need.' King County creates mental health coalition

Over one million people in Washington state have a mental health condition.

In February 2021, almost half of adults in the state reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. Thirty percent were unable to get needed counseling or therapy.

A new coalition announced Thursday by King County Executive Dow Constantine is looking to make a difference in the crisis.

"It's happening now because we have reached with the Covid crisis, and much more, a point where there are just so many unmet needs out there, it's affecting everything in our community," Constantine told KUOW's Soundside.

"We don't have the resources, but we do see the need every day," he said. "So we've pulled together a coalition to create a plan."

That plan, says Constantine, will include a network of care centers, restoring and expanding residential care capacity, and developing a workforce to staff these services.

He says the need for these services is evident.

"We have over 600 people, adults in the King County Jail, who are receiving some kind of behavioral health treatment," Constantine explained. "And many more, maybe hundreds more, who have declined to receive treatment. That's out of 1,530 people who are currently at the King County Jail."

There currently are no walk-in behavioral health care facilities in King County.

But how this coalition will be funded is still up in the air. Constantine said the county doesn't have the funding to do this on its own.

"The first task is really to identify what is needed," he said. "And then to have a serious conversation with our state partners, hopefully with our federal partners, with our community partners, about what the smartest way is to fund what is needed."

Right now Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell is the only city official listed as a member of this coalition. Constantine said he does expect other cities throughout the county to join in with the effort, understanding how great King County's mental health needs are.

The next steps will be convening the coalition and working to understand the scale of the challenge, Constantine said. Then, Constantine will report to the King County Council about what comes next along with his 2023 budget in September of this year.