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In a rare move, county buys a mental health facility to keep it from closing

A group of people stand outside a building in North Seattle.
Joshua Lewis
/
King County
King County Executive Dow Constantine outside of Cascade Hall, a residential mental health treatment center in North Seattle.

A lot of reports you see about street disorder in downtown Seattle these days are because treatment beds for people in crisis have been rapidly disappearing for years.

Since 2018, King County has lost more than a hundred beds for people who need residential mental health treatment. Wait times have shot up to 44 days on average, according to the county.

A map showing the location of Cascade Hall in North Seattle
Parker Miles Blohm
/
KNKX

It's enough of a crisis that the county is now making the uncommon move of buying a facility to keep it from closing.

This year Cascade Hall in North Seattle was set to close; if that happened, the county would've lost a quarter of its remaining beds.

County executive Dow Constantine at a press conference said the 64-bed facility was originally built in 1985 as one of a number of facilities to replace old state hospitals and asylums. Many of these facilities have been shut down recently as they aged.

"A number of these were stood up then — not nearly enough to meet the need, even then," Constantine said, "but the capital funding for for maintenance had never followed on to the initial construction."

It will be the only mental health facility the county owns.

The county used $4 million of its own money from the Mental Illness and Drug Dependency levy, combined with $6 million from the state, to buy the facility.

Scott Greenstone started off working at his community college newspaper before interning at NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered and covering homelessness for The Seattle Times. He co-produced the “Outsiders” podcast with KNKX, which was named one of TIME’s top 10 podcasts of 2020.