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‘The next step in revolutionizing behavioral health’: $234M UW Medicine facility begins construction

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Community leaders celebrate groundbreaking Oct. 15 at UWMC-Northwest (from left to right): Gov. Jay Inslee, David Frockt, Rogelio Riojas, Frank Chopp, Rashi Gupta, Ana Mari Cauce, Larry Brown, Cindy Hecker, Jürgen Unützer.

Local officials celebrated groundbreaking for UW Medicine’s new Behavioral Health Teaching Facility on Oct 15. Funded by $234 million in state appropriations, the facility will open December 2023 at UW Medical Center – Northwest (UWMC – Northwest).

“This marks a turning point in our shared commitment to addressing the very serious need for access to mental and behavioral healthcare across our state,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce said. 

Proposed in 2019, the facility is part of a larger effort to bolster the state’s mental and behavioral health system, which has consistently lagged behind the rest of the nation. The Seattle Times reported in 2019 that Washington had the third-highest rate of mental health issues in the United States, but placed 49th in psychiatric beds. 

Along with expanding psychiatric bed capacity, strengthening the state’s behavioral health workforce is a key goal statewide, especially given COVID-19-induced healthcare worker shortages. The goal of the facility is to address both of these needs.

There are currently 27 psychiatric beds at UWMC – Northwest. This new facility will increase that number by over 100 beds, which will serve elderly and civilly committed patients, as well as individuals seeking voluntary treatment.

“Today is a promise that along with more beds and better treatment facilities, the training pipeline will expand, producing more skilled professionals … who will go out and serve every community in Washington state,” Cauce said. “This partnership between ... UW and the state is a wonderful example of how our public research university can partner with the state for the public good.”

The facility will also include an “interdisciplinary training program” aimed at building and retaining the next generation of behavioral health providers in Washington state. 

“I have been championing this project for several years … it is the next step in revolutionizing behavioral health in the state of Washington,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Now we are taking the next step of producing the talent necessary to provide mental health treatment.”

Reach News Editor Annie Denton at Twitter: @anniesdenton

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