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.