The Mental Health Project is a Seattle Times initiative focused on covering mental and behavioral health issues. It is funded by Ballmer Group, a national organization focused on economic mobility for children and families. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over work produced by this team.

King County and Washington state officials have pooled $10 million to purchase Cascade Hall, a 64-bed behavioral health facility near Northgate. 

The announcement of the purchase Wednesday comes after officials said last month they are forming a coalition to tackle chronic behavioral health workforce shortages and other issues related to mental health and substance use. 

“In 2018, we had 388 beds in our mental health residential system,” Leo Flor, director of the Department of Community and Human Services for King County, said Wednesday at a news conference. “Today we have 266 beds — only because we’ve been able to preserve this. We do have indications from another provider that another 16-bed facility is likely to close this year.”

King County used $4 million in MIDD Behavioral Health funds with an additional $6 million from Washington state to complete the purchase of the facility from Sound, one the largest nonprofit mental health providers in the county.

Katrina Egner, the executive vice president and chief programs officer at Sound, cited shortages of behavioral health workers as one reason behind the decision to sell.

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“Sound, like many agencies, needs to take a moment sometimes and figure out where to best put our resources, and so that is why we’re exiting from Cascade Hall,” Egner said.

The sale is in its final stages, according to county officials. 

Cascade Hall is a residential treatment facility that provides both mental health stabilization and substance use treatment. People typically live in the facility for about 2½ years before moving into other housing after stabilizing. Sound inherited the facility when it acquired Community Psychiatric Clinic in 2019. 

Starting next year, the county intends to work with Community House Mental Health, a nonprofit agency, to continue operating the facility in a new partnership. 

Chris Szala, the executive director of Community House Mental Health, said they plan to have a smooth transition where residents can get used to any new staff. Currently, the facility has a waitlist of 70 people hoping to receive residential treatment services.

“The behavioral health system has long been underfunded, and we cannot afford to lose treatment facilities like this one,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said. 

A wide-ranging proposal to address holes in the crisis response system, a lack of beds at residential treatment centers and workforce shortages is expected to head to the Metropolitan King County Council at the end of the month alongside Constantine’s 2023-24 biennial budget, though officials have not publicly committed to a specific monetary amount.

Mental health resources from The Seattle Times