Seattle Times: Fund behavioral-health providers essential to our COVID-19 recovery

April 22, 2021

By Patrick Evans, Tom Sebastian and Jodi Daly Special to The Times

After more than a year, acknowledging the mental-health impacts of the pandemic is like acknowledging a five-alarm fire — unmistakable and growing increasingly urgent each day. Not only are we all still reeling from the effects of living through a pandemic, we now know that a third of COVID-19 survivors are experiencing neurological or mental disorders, according to recent research.

As front-line workers, community behavioral health providers have witnessed firsthand the most debilitating effects. The confluence of housing insecurity, economic downturn and prolonged isolation are among the many factors that have contributed to anxiety, depression, suicidality and substance use.

While we are responsible for addressing those critical needs, it’s doubly frightening that we’re now facing an existential workforce issue. Because of chronic underfunding, community behavioral health providers throughout the state cannot hire or retain enough qualified mental-health professionals to keep pace with our communities’ needs.

As leaders of large community behavioral health agencies from Puget Sound to Eastern Washington, we see firsthand how the burden of this deficit ultimately falls onto our clients — vulnerable, low-income adults, children and teens who qualify for Medicaid benefits — and our partners in health care and public safety.

To protect our clients and the safety net, we ask that state leaders invest more in community behavioral health services so we can provide enough compensation for mental-health professionals to afford to serve our communities.

Read the full article here.