Behavioral-health crisis care is hard to find. Can a levy solve that?

The behavioral-health system in our area is desperately short on capacity for crisis care, says King County Executive Dow Constantine. Example: The entire county has one 46-bed behavioral health crisis facility. To start fixing the problem, Constantine is proposing a property-tax levy. He announced the nine-year proposal today, saying that between 2024 and 2032 it would generate $1.25 billion “to stabilize and strengthen King County’s behavioral health crisis care system.” Here’s the announcement; here are the four things the levy would be aimed at accomplishing:

1. Create five new regional crisis care centers: Distributed geographically across the county, the centers will provide walk-in access and the potential for short-term stays to help people stabilize, depending on needs, with one center specifically serving youth.

2. Preserve and restore the dramatic loss of residential treatment beds: In 2018, 355 beds providing community-based residential care for people with mental health residential needs existed in King County. Today, only 244 of these beds are available.

3. Grow the behavioral health workforce pipeline: The proposal will create career pathways through apprenticeship programming and access to higher education, credentialing, training, and wrap-around supports. It will also invest in equitable wages for the workforce at crisis care centers.

4. Provide immediate services while centers are being constructed: The proposal will also use initial proceeds to quickly create mobile or site-based crisis behavioral health services that can operate until the first crisis care centers open. This bridge strategy will complement recent state and federally-funded-mobile crisis teams.

This would cost the current “median-price” homeowner $121 a year in the levy’s first year. If the County Council approves sending this to voters, it’s likely to be on a special-election ballot in April of 2023.

53 Replies to "Behavioral-health crisis care is hard to find. Can a levy solve that?"

  • Jim September 26, 2022 (1:22 pm)

    We’re facing a recession and a budget shortfall the last thing we need is more pet projects. In fact they need to be making cuts to the budget! NO MORE MONEY 

    • DD September 26, 2022 (5:07 pm)

      This is desperately needed. Our current methods of caring for these patients are vastly more expensive to the taxpayers, and lead to worse outcomes for the affected individuals. Your proposal to cut the already meager budget even further would lead to more individuals in crisis, further exacerbating our city’s problems with homelessness, substance use, and crime.

    • The truth September 27, 2022 (12:04 am)

      As a business owner who has been broken into more times than I can to count and as someone who has spent money on a new catalytic for my car…I will gladly pay $10 per month to help flatten that trend.  Drug users a lot of times are treating undiagnosed mental health issues. If this help with that issue, it is a win. That’s just one aspect of the relief this could bring. What is incumbent upon us as voters and tax payers is to make sure they deliver the results. I am skeptical of that happening bit we cannot keep doing nothing.

    • Derek September 27, 2022 (7:48 am)

      Pet project???? So you All scream at the poor impoverished and mentally ill to get off the streets and now that we can build appropriate facilities, you call it let project??? What has happened to Seattle’s compassion? 

  • Niko September 26, 2022 (1:25 pm)

    Last think we need is higher property taxes 

    • Derek September 27, 2022 (7:49 am)

      Then tax cars or something instead. We need these facilities. Or go back to income tax so it’s not so regressive here.

      • Flivver September 27, 2022 (9:21 am)

        Derek. Cars are already taxed. Sales tax; gas tax; sound transit tax; other car tab fees.

  • Scarlett September 26, 2022 (1:40 pm)

    No.  What people need is supportive community help, not to go in and be stigmatized and saddled with some bogus mental health diagnosis.   

    • Your Way Doesn't Work September 26, 2022 (2:19 pm)

      What kind of “supportive, community help” would you offer to the psychotic fentanyl addict who swings a bludgeon at random passersby?  Because I just saw that guy downtown the other day and he needed a whole lot more than the useless feel-good nonsense you are recommending.

      • flimflam September 26, 2022 (7:17 pm)

        Unfortunately it won’t don much good for that guy unless he agrees to treatment. This is a major problem with the mentality ill/addicts – they can’t be involuntarily committed unless a very high bar is met.

    • an Educated Individual September 27, 2022 (12:00 pm)

      Scarlett – it seems to me that YOU’RE the one stigmatizing those seeking professional behavior help via a crisis facility. If community help is what you believe works for you, that’s great. Please don’t speak for the rest of us struggling with mental illness. You are right, a supportive community is very help, but you are must be very ignorant if you believe that’s the only thing everyone needs, everyone struggles differently and needs different ways of assistance. It’s literally a case by case basis and we need options for people who need to have different needs met.

      • Scarlett September 29, 2022 (3:09 pm)

        How many people actually get better through this alleged “professional” mental health treatment?  I’ll bet that more people are harmed – and yes, have to carry around a shaming mental health diagnosis around for the rest of their life –  than are helped long term.   Even talk therapy is less effective than one might think.  Most people would just benefit from someone asking them what’s going on in their life once in a while,  some sympathy and commiseration, and no white coats needed.  

  • Anne September 26, 2022 (1:42 pm)

    What is current “ median price” -anyone know how that is calculated? Wonder  what this property tax might cost someone who owns an  apartment building -(know it depends on size  of course) who will in turn have to raise rents accordingly. Between this & Parks levy being talked about -costs could be significant.  Any  apartment building owners out there that could give some insight? Mental health is a huge societal problem & this seems to be a good start to finally really addressing it. Parks are hugely important as well-staffing has been an issue -which impacts new builds ,  rule enforcement , upkeep. Hopefully money raised from this levy will address those issues. Would like to see more transparency-including a yearly  published accounting of how & where our tax dollars are being  spent by City, County & State. Maybe this already exists & I just don’t know about it-or how  to access it. 

    • K September 26, 2022 (9:09 pm)

      Median house price in Seattle is $850,000.  This will cost me less than $10/month and I’m happy to vote for it.  Mental health has been WAY too underfunded for WAY too long.

  • North Admiral Resident September 26, 2022 (1:42 pm)

    Why does Seattle executives view home owners as a checkbook? 

    • sam-c September 26, 2022 (2:15 pm)

      It looks like this is actually a King County levy being proposed, not City of Seattle.  

    • WS Res September 26, 2022 (6:49 pm)

      Because we can’t fund things via an income tax in this state.  This is why we can’t have nice things.

      • sam-c September 27, 2022 (6:59 am)

        Yes, exactly.   I was worried that if I brought up income tax, the pitchforks would come out.

    • DC September 27, 2022 (10:25 am)

      Renters effectively pay property taxes too through the rent they pay property owners. 

  • anonyme September 26, 2022 (2:03 pm)

    I think this is a great idea, but have to agree with North Admiral Resident.  Property owners cannot continue to fund every single financial need of the county.  Think of a better way.  I also heartily disagree with the sentiment that having urgent mental health care available stigmatizes users.  WTH is ‘supportive community help”, and where are these angels of mercy right now?  Continuing to sweep the problem under the rug is what causes stigmatizing – not professional help.  While I have a lot of issues and doubts concerning the current modalities of mental health treatment, someone in crisis needs more than hope and a prayer.

  • G-Man September 26, 2022 (2:14 pm)

    Nope, sorry Dow. I’m through voting to tax myself into oblivion. Please find the money in the already bursting, mis-managed coffers.

  • Millie September 26, 2022 (2:30 pm)

    I, personally, am having a difficult time understanding how elected officials from the City, County and State can continue to treat taxpayers as “cash cows”.   Surely, their economic analysts have been keeping them informed of the current economic climate.   The late and first King County Executive John D. Spellman in his first budget proposal used the following analogy “you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip”, perhaps it is time to return to government “living within its’ means”.  My vote for this levy or any other  will be a resounding “NO”.

    • WestSeattleBadTakes September 26, 2022 (8:06 pm)

      I hope you’re preparing for the reality of your votes.

  • Gabion September 26, 2022 (2:32 pm)

    I agree we property owners are becoming overburdened, but this is also a pie in the sky plan because where would he find the staff for any of this?  Was there a sudden rush of healthcare personnel entering the workforce that I am unaware of? 

    • WS Res September 26, 2022 (6:49 pm)

      My students graduating with MA degrees and ready to work as pre-licensed associates would love to find jobs that would pay more than 30 or 40K a year, since all of them have huge student loans to pay as well as dealing with the cost of living in the area.  Funding positions to pay a living/median wage would help fill some of these gaps, and would also reduce attrition through burnout, brain drain, and people finding they can meet their economic needs more easily by NOT working in the field they trained for.

  • Tracey September 26, 2022 (2:44 pm)

    Are you kidding me?   Are homeowner’s not suffering too?  ALL housing needs to become more affordable.  Property taxes have become a blank cheque.   I can’t sell part of my house to pay my bills.   Of course,  I could sell all of it and buy an RV.   Is that the goal?

    • WestSeattleBadTakes September 26, 2022 (8:05 pm)

      I take it you’re asking your local representatives for a constitutional amendment to collect income taxes?

      • anonyme September 27, 2022 (6:12 am)

        I don’t know about Tracey, but I absolutely support an amendment to allow an income tax.  This tax, with a concurrent reduction in the sales tax, would be a far more equitable approach to funding.

  • SignMeUp September 26, 2022 (4:00 pm)

    I am all for this, 100%.If anyone can solve the mental health crisis in Seattle, it is our local government. Anyone who doubts this should open their eyes and look to the long list of successful interventions they have created and implemented. Their track record is stellar, and anyone who opposes this is likely a right wing small government fascist who hates the poor, people of color, and other marginalized groups.It is tiring to have to defend these programs from the flood of criticisms from the so called informed populace.  

    • sarcasm? September 27, 2022 (10:01 am)

      I can’t tell is this is sarcasm or not!  I think their track record is way less than 100% at solving anything.  Surely it’s sarcasm.

  • Jay September 26, 2022 (5:30 pm)

    Do you know what you can do when you want to see a shrink? Nothing. There are none available within a 45 minute drive with appointments in the next year. Want to see an adult autism specialist? None within the state can make you an appointment at any time in the future. People talk about mental health care so much but it just doesn’t exist in our area.

  • Pigeon Pointer September 26, 2022 (6:01 pm)

    Is there even enough mental health professionals to do this? I think not. Plus this is way bigger than a King County problem we just keep sheeling out the bucks for the region.

    • DH September 26, 2022 (8:14 pm)

      I agree that this is bigger than King County. The County cannot solve the low pay across the field. Paying living wages at these 5 facilities is not going to fix it. Are they paying living wages at the one facility they have right now? This is also passing the costs of the state failures at Western Hospital to King County voters. Vote No! 

  • Jeepney September 26, 2022 (6:08 pm)

    Although mental health treatment is desperately needed, we can’t count on King County government to manage the funds efficiently.  One possible idea is to fight the opioid crisis and go after the higher level as well as the lower lever drug dealers.  Fentanyl, heroin, meth, etc are turning people into zombies.

  • Scubafrog September 26, 2022 (6:31 pm)

    Corporations are making record profits, the super rich still aren’t paying their fair share.  And yet, Democrats keep coming to the fiscally-exhausted middle class for money, even during massive inflation, and a potential recession.   Democrats may feel free to go after their money at any point.  Moreover, there aren’t enough psychiatrists nor psychologists to deal with Seattle’s extraordinary need.

    • WestSeattleBadTakes September 26, 2022 (8:00 pm)

      It doesn’t help that so many here will defend the rich. All while complaining about local business being squashed by Amazon. Most citizens are a walking contradiction with no self awareness.

      Democrats are mostly complicit as the rich load their pockets as well.

  • Scarlett September 26, 2022 (7:40 pm)

    The pharmaceuticals would just LOVE to get their products into more medicine cabinets.  How do they do that?  Coming  up with more “mental health” disorders, or legal drugs to replace “illegal” drugs.   A recent study found that anti-depressants are only 15% more likely to be effective than a placebo, basically a coin toss.  We’ve known this for DECADES.  So, why are they still being doled out? It’s the mental health industrial complex and profits.    

    • Oh Seattle September 26, 2022 (8:24 pm)

      Scientologist?

      • Scarlett September 27, 2022 (7:32 am)

        No.  

  • WestSeattleBadTakes September 26, 2022 (8:03 pm)

    You can tell how many didn’t even read this post.Everyone knows we don’t have enough mental health professionals, hence: Grow the behavioral health workforce pipeline.”

    • Yes, this! September 26, 2022 (8:31 pm)

      Yes, exactly, so many complainers on here who don’t bother to read before posting. 

  • Smoosh September 26, 2022 (8:19 pm)

    We live in a failing country because of our low tax burden (especially for the truly rich) and our knee jerk freak out to the idea that rather than tax ourselves to provide for a greater society we complain about our current (low) tax burden for fear we won’t be able to buy a bigger speed boat. Insane.  All the people on this blog both complaining about cudgel wielding fentanyl addicts and high tax burdens without irony are the issue here as much as elite tax avoidance. 

  • Auntie September 26, 2022 (8:40 pm)

    Between this proposed levy and the proposed parks levy, if they pass, they could be the straw that breaks this camel’s back. I have lived in Seattle all my life, in West Seattle for 50 years, and am now wondering how much longer I can afford to live here. The property taxes are already onorous for those of us on fixed incomes. Maybe that’s not a problem for you bougie folks who keep voting yes on every levy that comes down the pike, but it sure has become a problem for me. There’s got to be a better way to fund these projects and the powers that be will not look at alternatives as long as the levies continue to pass. 

    • Jay September 27, 2022 (11:36 am)

      We desperately need an income tax. Taxes need to be based on people’s ability to pay them. Washington is so backwards when it comes to this.

  • Donna September 27, 2022 (4:37 am)

    A few points:We all complain about the homelessness issues. This would address a fair chunk (not all of it). Consider how much instead we are spending on nearly the only present option, the emergency department at Harborview. And the popular “get tough on crime” demands (which I agree with in part) will require more tax dollars for incarceration.If you haven’t tried looking for mental health services for yourself or a family member I’m not exaggerating when I say be prepared to wait many weeks, often many months, to get it. And the evidence-based non-medication options (and yes, for some that needs to be paired with meds) take far longer than just a few visits but frequently insurance doesn’t cover it. So what are people often told when desperately seeking mental health services? “Well, there’s always the ER.” Cha-ching there’s those tax dollars again.Have you ever felt suicidal? Or had a teen who is at risk for suicide? Yeah, the new 988 crisis line is great, but we desperately need preventive services. And when you call 988 where are the services following the immediate crisis?My household is on a limited budget. We cannot afford all the proposals. We’re going to triage. And this is the one we’re going with.

    • flimflam September 27, 2022 (11:10 am)

      Respectfully disagree as far as alleviating homelessness issues – they have to agree to treatment first. 

  • Morgan September 27, 2022 (7:28 am)

    This is very very needed and obviously underfunded compared to peer or larger cities in country. Wash state ranks bottom of all states for regressive taxes. I agree homeowners aren’t a bottomless well. We need to propose a cut somewhere or more creative ways to widen tax base. Also, what’s that job/payroll tax doing??

    • Jeff September 27, 2022 (9:49 am)

      Taxing Amazon is an option. But ya’ll seem to forget that. Sawant needs the support!

  • KB September 27, 2022 (8:04 am)

    While I don’t love the idea of yet another property tax, this is something the citizens of King County need. Are you tired of seeing mentally ill, drug addicted and alcohol abusers on our buses, streets, and sidewalks? Are you sick of having your business broken in to? Are you fed up with people with mental health issues living in tents in our parks or just walking down the street screaming at the sky? If you answered yes to any of these, this is probably a good start. We need to build facilities to house these folks. We used to have more of these but Reagan closed them up in the 80’s.  

  • Patrick September 27, 2022 (10:40 am)

    While I doubt anyone commenting on here would argue the need for additional mental health facilities, and be will to pay for that if needed.  However, how about you use some of the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been, and currently still wasted on the poor planning and payout to these companies that ‘solve the homeless problem’.   Are we at the 20 year mark of the 10 year plan in King County.  Stop creating the need for more tax burdens on an already over taxed populice.  Use the ample supply of money that has already been collected.   Politicians in this area only know tax increases….wake up and vote them out in favor of anyone who is willing to stop this out of control spending spree.

  • Mj September 27, 2022 (12:34 pm)

    No no & no.  Property taxes are already a huge burden and rental property owners will simply pass on the burden to tenants via higher rents that will adversely affect affordability.  Enough already.

  • RW September 27, 2022 (5:37 pm)

    I’m all for paying a bit more to solve problems but I don’t see any problems being solved! 

    The judges let the perps get out of jail within a day so that’s a failed deterrent, i.e. more crime.   We don’t have enough police, nor mental health support. 

    The only thing that’s consistent are proposals for higher property taxes meant to solve a problem that I thought we tried to solve the last go around (I believe that’s the definition of insanity).  There is virtually no accountability. 

    And don’t give me that this is a Democrat problem, I’m old enough to remember “supply-side economics”, also known as Reaganomics & trickle-down economics … tax breaks for the wealthy & corporations, the middle-class is left with whatever trickles-down, & the poor are pretty much screwed.  THAT is the Republican agenda, always has been. 

    Unless we fix the wealth gap, locally & nationally, our country will just continue down this same path.

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