SEATTLE – To respond to the ‘shadow pandemic’, Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle and South Park), and Chair of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee proposes additional resources in this year’s budget for school- and community-based mental health clinics, survivors of gender-based violence, and a new voluntary stabilization facility for Seattle residents experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
“The impact of the pandemic on our mental health is undeniable,” said Herbold. “The unprecedented anxiety, pain, and isolation of the past year and half are leading to negative mental health impacts – and occasionally erupting into abuse, self-harm, gunfire, assault, and other forms of violence.”
Katherine Seibel of NAMI | Washington said, “More than half of the people in our country have reported that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health. In Washington, 46% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression this year, and 30% were unable to get the counseling or therapy they need. More than half of 12 – 17 year olds who have depression did not receive any care in the past year, according to research by NAMI|Washington. Now, more than ever, we need increased investments so that people have greater access to mental health services and support across the entire continuum of care. NAMI Washington is grateful for Councilmember Herbold’s efforts to advocate additional investments in mental health supports that are sorely needed for our community members.”
“As a member of the School Board, I’m keenly aware of the social, emotional, and mental toll the pandemic is taking on our students and on our staff,” said Director Brandon K. Hersey, School Board Vice President of Seattle Public Schools. “We are focused on learning, but research consistently shows us that students can’t learn when their emotional and mental needs are not being met or they don’t feel safe. We applaud Councilmember Herbold and welcome the additional focus on and support for culturally appropriate responses to the very real challenges both students and staff are experiencing as we readjust to in-person learning.”
Herbold shared that the Seattle Public School District is finding themselves responding to suicide ideation and attempts, self-harm, threats of violence, assaults requiring medical attention, substance use and more. Some students have lost mental health services during the pandemic, while bearing witness to significant grief and loss, violence and tragedy in their communities, and carrying that trauma into school. “Students and schools need access to the skills and resources to manage those situations,” Herbold concluded.
“While the lack of adequate mental health resources is felt by Seattle residents every day, funding our behavioral health system is primarily a County and State responsibility,” said Herbold. “I have reached out to our partners at King County to propose an aligned path that leads to better support for Seattle residents struggling with behavioral health challenges. The City is willing to do our part, and we look forward to the County leading the way.“
“We appreciate Councilmember Herbold’s leadership to increase behavioral health crisis capacity in a way that reinforces the regional behavioral health system,” said Leo Flor, King County’s Director of the Department of Community and Human Services. “As the region strives to address the full need for behavioral health, this partnership between cities, the County and the State is critical to providing seamless connections to care. We look forward to working with Seattle to make this proposal a reality.”
Herbold’s budgetary amendments include:
- $1 million to increase funding for school-based mental and behavioral health services, and to increase the City’s investment in County-contracted mental health services including community mental health clinics, Designated Crisis Responders, and Healthcare for the Homeless.
- $3 million to significantly expand mobile advocacy services and financial assistance for survivors of gender-based violence, a research-backed approach that promotes long-term stability, safety and well-being for survivors and their children.
- A down payment on capital funding to rapidly set up a new voluntary behavioral health crisis center, a place for people in crisis to receive immediate, skilled support, without requiring law enforcement involvement.
Herbold will continue working with the County, community behavioral health providers, mental health experts, and City departments including Department of Education and Early Learning, and the Human Services Department, to shape these budget additions in the days ahead and weeks remaining in the City’s budgeting exercise.