Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, have committed to donating $38 million over the next few years to help address Washington’s behavioral and mental health crisis.
The gifts from Ballmer Group, the philanthropic organization co-founded by the Ballmers, aim to address the state’s workforce shortage in the behavioral health system by building up education and training programs.
Most of the money — $24.8 million — will go toward diversifying and increasing the number of students across the state who graduate with a master’s in social work and mental health counseling.
Over 400 students will receive financial aid for the next five years and graduate students will also receive grants for committing to work in the behavioral health system for three years.
A Seattle Times investigation in 2019 found Washington has the third-highest rate of mental illness among adults in the nation, but among the lowest when it comes to serving those people. Nearly a quarter of those adults with a mental illness report not being able to access care, according to University of Washington.
Here’s where else the funding would go:
- $3 million for a program for behavioral health support specialists for undergraduate students in partnership with the UW Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
- $8.5 million for the Behavioral Health Institute at Harborview Medical Center to establish apprenticeship programs for early and midcareer professionals and to support government initiatives on the behavioral health crisis response system.
- $1.1 million to the Washington Council for Behavioral Health to fund a pilot project to test new ways of providing clinical help to agencies that serve predominantly low-income people.
- $400,000 to the Washington State Health Care Authority
- $500,000 to the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship as a match to the state’s investment in a graduate program targeting nurse practitioners.