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The University of Washington today announced that the School of Social Work and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and the Behavioral Health Institute at Harborview Medical Center will receive a part of a transformational $38 million set of gifts from Ballmer Group to support a broad, collaborative response to the state’s behavioral health crisis.

The gifts aim to address the state of Washington’s serious workforce shortage in the community behavioral health system, in large part by supporting statewide education and training innovations at partner institutions developed through the University of Washington.

Addressing the behavioral health crisis

The new grants come on the heels of Gov. Jay Inslee’s historic behavioral health bill signing Thursday, which recognized the severity of the crisis and celebrated new investments.

Washington state currently ranks among the lowest in the nation in serving people with mental health challenges. The needs are vast and far-reaching, with Washingtonians experiencing common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, serious and persistent disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, or addiction to alcohol or other substances. In addition, nearly a quarter of adults with a mental illness reported not being able to access care, which is only being exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

Investing in our behavioral health systems

Washington state legislators, universities, service providers and philanthropists have come together to drive major investments into statewide behavioral health system as COVID-19 fuels the rise in mental and behavioral health issues.

The state Legislature responded to the urgent need during its recently completed session with unprecedented investments in Washington’s behavioral health system. The Legislature’s commitments included $200.5 million for a new 150-bed behavioral health teaching facility on UW Medical Center’s Northwest campus, in addition to an expanded psychiatry residency program and a statewide 24/7 psychiatric consultation program. Legislators also designated nearly $170 million to support community behavior health providers, mobile crisis response teams throughout the state, intensive case management and Homeless Outreach Stabilization, and one-time relief to ease the financial impact of COVID-19 on providers.

Ballmer Group’s gifts will complement these investments through innovative and transformational approaches to growing and strengthening the state’s behavioral health workforce.

More than $3 million will be used over five years to create an innovative training program for Behavioral Health Support Specialists (BHHS) for undergraduate students in colleges around the state of Washington in partnership with the UW Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

The Behavioral Health Institute at Harborview Medical Center will receive $8.5 million over three years. This includes:

  • $5.5 million to establish statewide behavioral-health apprenticeship programs for early- and mid-career professionals in collaboration with community partners, including the King County Executive’s Office and The SEIU Healthcare 1199NW Multi-Employer Training Fund.
  • Nearly $3 million to work closely with Washington State and community-partners on a redesign of Washington’s behavioral health crisis response system.

Beyond the financial commitments to UW Medicine, the UW and students at colleges and universities around Washington, Ballmer Group is investing in other ways to build behavioral health capacity across the state.

Read the original press release and more about the Ballmer Groups’ investments in behavioral health.