As leaders in Western Washington work to address mental health, one of the areas of focus is funding. Washington is below the national average for mental health funding, despite it being one of the most expensive states. Washington is in the lowest quarter of the country when it comes to having available in-patient beds for people in crisis.
“This has to stop,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said. “We have to really take on a full court press to help people out of addiction, to help people out of untreated or undertreated mental illness.”
Recently, thanks to county and state funds, doors opened to a new treatment facility on Seattle’s Beacon Hill. Constantine called it treatment of the future, as the complex will address mental health and addiction in the same building.
“That is good for our individual clients and their families, but it is also good for all of us,” Constantine said. “It makes financial sense. It makes economic sense to take a wholistic approach.”
But despite the success, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Adrienne Quinn is the Director of the King County Department of Community and Human Services, and she says, despite great efforts from people local and state leaders, solutions to the problem will only come with continued investment.
“Fundamentally it is a funding issue and as a community if we want people to receive the treatment, if we want to make a difference in homelessness, we need to substantially increase the investment in mental health and substance use disorder,” Quinn said. “This is not just a city issue or a county issue, it’s a statewide issue.”
Constantine said one of the big issues right now is capacity. Because Washington ranks in the lowest quarter for having available in-patient beds for people in crisis, there are problems on multiple levels.
“There are people in Western State that should be in community facilities like this (treatment center for addiction and mental health). There are people in community facilities that should be able to transition into their housing and take that step toward independence. And sadly, there are people in the community, on our streets, who need to be in Western State, but sadly, there’s no room,” Constantine said.
It’s an issue that many people are working to address, but answers may only come with help from everyone.
“Nobody has asked to have paranoid schizophrenia, but that is a reality, and we need to help those people get into treatment and then have safe housing afterwards,” Quinn said. “We need a community effort in order to do this because they are our brothers, our sisters, our parents.”