State leaders launch new behavioral health facility construction program with $69 million in grants and funding to local communities


A new program aimed at building new behavioral health treatment facilities across the state is now in full swing. The Washington State Department of Commerce is now accepting applications for $20 million in competitive grants to local community hospitals and behavioral health service providers, and has begun directing an additional $49.5 million to a list of projects approved by the Legislature.

This funding is part of more than $117 million 2019 capital investment package that advances Gov. Jay Inslee’s five-year plan to transform Washington’s mental health system by emphasizing community-based care over civil patient placements in the state’s large hospitals.

“Washington is transforming the way we treat people with mental health challenges and substance use disorders,” Inslee said. “Not every patient needs to be in a psychiatric hospital, but they still need some kind care. This funding will help build up our network of community-based care so we can provide the right kinds of treatment and recovery options that patients and their families need.”

The governor and the Legislature have been working on a bipartisan basis to shift away from a system based on two large psychiatric hospitals to a community-based system with smaller facilities that are uniquely suited to the needs of individual patients. The Legislature approved funding to expand discharge placements for individuals who no longer need a hospital level of care, new substance use disorder treatment facilities and create new facility types for individuals who no longer need treatment but who have high behavioral health needs.

This new capital facilities program, managed by Commerce, is guided by a multi-agency advisory group. This includes the Department of Social and Health Services, Department of Health, Washington State Health Care Authority and several other stakeholders that represent community services and care organizations.

Four specific programs have grants available in this initial funding round:

  • $10 million for residential centers serving adults needing long-term dementia care placement outside of state psychiatric hospitals.
  • $4 million for at least two facilities for long-term placement of patients discharged or diverted from state psychiatric hospitals.
  • $4 million for at least two facilities with secure withdrawal management and stabilization treatment.
  • $2 million to increase behavioral health services for children and minor youth, with a priority on outreach and treatment for youth dealing with mental health and social isolation issues.

Commerce will administer a total of $69 million in competitive grants over the biennium.

Commerce Director Lisa Brown said these funds are crucial in providing strong behavioral health services.

“This funding strengthens communities by building their capacity to serve children, young people and adults in need closer to home,” Brown said. “Taking patients far away from family, friends and support systems to treat mental health and substance use disorders is less effective and more expensive.”

Grant program guidelines and application information are posted on the Commerce website. Interested groups need to submit applications before Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, at 5 p.m. (Pacific time).