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During its 2019 session, Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington State Legislature took decisive and badly needed action to address the state’s behavioral health crisis. As part of this initiative, UW Medicine will receive funding to build a new UW Medicine Behavioral Health Teaching Facility, increase residency training in psychiatry, establish a new telehealth consultation center and provide training and technical assistance to providers caring for individuals with mental health and substance use problems throughout our state.

The UW Medicine Behavioral Health Teaching Facility is anticipated to be located on the Northwest Hospital campus. It will have an estimated 150 beds, including new beds for adults on 90-180 day civil commitment for treatment of severe and persistent mental illness and replacement beds for the existing gero-psychiatry program at Northwest Hospital and the adult voluntary psychiatry unit currently housed at UW Medical Center. It will also have medical surgical beds that will be capable of serving adults with medical, surgical and psychiatric needs and new space for telehealth consultation services, neuromodulation procedures, and behavioral health training programs for physicians and other healthcare providers.

The state has allocated $33.25 million to initiate the design and building of the new teaching facility during the current legislative biennium and has earmarked a total of $225 million for the completion of the project over the next four years. The initial phase of the project will include site selection, a draft environmental impact statement, and operational and functional programming for a predesign report that will be presented to state lawmakers by the end of this calendar year. This initial work is being conducted by UW Medicine in collaboration with UW Facilities, clinical experts from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Ankrom Moisan Architects.

“We are excited to move this project forward,” said Cindy Hecker, executive director for UW Medical Center and Northwest Hospital. “There is significant need for expanded behavioral health care in our state. We are pleased that the UW Medicine/Northwest campus has the space to assist in helping to provide access to this care.”

UW Medicine also received $500,000 in state funding for predesign work on a new Behavioral Health Institute at Harborview Medical Center and $2.4 million in funding over the next four years for expanding the current residency program in psychiatry. In addition, a combination of state and federal funds has been received to build a telehealth behavioral health consultation center serving providers throughout Washington state.

“This is a landmark opportunity for UW Medicine to have a lasting impact on how we care for people suffering from mental illness and substance abuse,” said Dr. Jurgen Unutzer, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “We are pleased that our state’s legislators have recognized both the need for action and the special expertise that we have at UW Medicine to improve behavioral health and to train and inspire the next generation of healthcare professionals for Washington state.”

Lisa Brandenburg, UW Medicine’s chief health system officer, is leading an executive committee responsible for project oversight. Operational and functional programming is currently underway as part of the initial phase of the project.


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