Washington’s mental health care system is struggling to meet the needs of its residents. Longstanding stresses like historic underfunding for social programs have turned into severe fractures, with new pressures on a strained workforce of mental health care providers and a surge in demand for services during the COVID-19 pandemic

Existing services are often outdated and expensive. Therapists are hard to find, and the availability of beds inside treatment facilities is limited.

State and local officials, advocacy organizations and others continue to seek ways to address residents’ immediate needs and work toward longer-term solutions.

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.

The Seattle Times Mental Health Project co-sponsored a virtual event Thursday with the League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County to provide a conversation with local leaders and people with lived experiences about the state of mental and behavioral health care in our community.

The event, posted above, was moderated by Seattle Times reporter Hannah Furfaro.

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The panelists, who included people who have personal experiences with mental illness or substance use disorder, discussed mental and behavioral health disparities, challenges in training and retaining mental providers, and the 988 crisis lifeline coming next year.

The speakers were:

  • Sharayah Lane, acting program manager at the nonprofit Philanthropy Northwest and a member of the Lummi Nation.
  • Jim Vollendroff, senior adviser for policy and advocacy for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington.
  • Rep. Nicole Macri, state representative for the 43rd Legislative district and deputy director for strategy at the Downtown Emergency Service Center.
  • Isabel Jones, deputy director of behavioral health for King County.

We’d like to hear from you.

The Mental Health Project team is listening. We’d like to know what questions you have about mental health and which stories you’d suggest we cover.

Get in touch with us at mentalhealth@seattletimes.com.

Mental health resources from The Seattle Times