The Seattle Times’ recent extensive mental health coverage implies we have a broken behavioral health system that is unresponsive to the needs of patients. Community health centers have been steadfast in serving patients during the pandemic. However, these providers have been facing unprecedented demand for services and serious personal stressors — kids at home, family members dying — creating a depleted system of providers unable to continue working under the same conditions.

Where are all the therapists? Many have moved to private practice with flexible hours, higher salaries, lower caseloads, fewer requirements and ability to choose who to serve. Community health centers provide mental health and substance use services to the most vulnerable and most in need in our communities.

Our mission and requirement to serve these complex populations require a more robust workforce pipeline with incentives that make community health centers attractive to behavioral health providers. The state Legislature must step up to support these settings where we treat the most difficult to serve, with investments such as loan repayment, higher salaries, training, licensed supervision, flexible schedules and manageable caseloads.

Claudia D’Allegri, senior vice president, chief behavioral health officer, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, Seattle