King County Council approves $5 million in funding for youth mental health

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The King County Council on Tuesday approved a proposal to allocate $5 million in Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) funds to help and support young people with mental and behavioral health conditions.

The measure was sponsored by King County Councilmembers Rod Dembowski, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Girmay Zahilay, and Reagan Dunn.

“It’s clear to any parent across this country and here in King County that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an existing youth mental health crisis,” Dembowski said. 

“Many of the necessary steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 disproportionately harmed our young people. We’ve seen drastic increases in suicides, attempted suicides, and mental-health related ER visits. I am proud that the Council acted and look forward to expeditiously getting these funds into the community to help our young people.”

The funding will be split into two main areas, both putting priority on youth services: $2 million will go to behavioral health providers with prioritization of school-based services, mental health first aid for youth, and suicide prevention for youth. 

The remaining $3 million will fund behavioral health providers, prioritizing children and youth behavioral health services providers, by using levy funds to adjust the amounts of their existing contracts to account for increased costs such as the effects of inflation.

According to the CDC during the first year of the pandemic, mental health-related emergency department visits among adolescents aged 12–17 years increased 31%. In addition, suicide attempts increased with both genders of youth aged 12-17, with an over 50% increase in girls attempting suicide.

The King County MIDD is a countywide 0.1% sales tax generating nearly $70 million annually, specifically for programs and services for people living with or at risk of mental and behavioral health conditions.

“Investing in mental health, especially for young people, is absolutely crucial,” Kohl-Welles said. 


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