Challenge Seattle reports dire situation of Washington emergency rooms

January 18, 2024

Challenge Seattle, an alliance of 22 organizations led by former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, released a new report titled “Emergency Rooms at the Epicenter: Addressing the Crisis of Homelessness, Mental Health, and Substance Use Disorder” focused on urgent and implementable solutions to address easing the burden on emergency departments in our state.

The report uses data gathered though WSHA research and reveals the alarming state of emergency rooms across Washington, which are overwhelmed by patients suffering from homelessness, mental health crises and substance use disorder – especially fentanyl. In most of these crises, the ER is not the best place for an unhoused person who needs a prescription filled, someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis or some individuals who have been revived from an overdose and do not need further medical care.

With major local and state investments in permanent housing and behavioral health facilities, the report calls for an emergency response to the crisis, with a series of immediate solutions that require collaboration and action from hospitals, the governor, the Legislature, local governments, non-profits, philanthropy and the private sector.

As part of the project, Challenge Seattle reviewed local efforts and programs across the country, received input from the expertise of statewide leaders, participated in ride-alongs and site visits, and in total, interviewed more than 100 doctors, nurses, first responders, national experts and local officials.

We need other options in our state, including street medicine, 24/7 stabilization sites, more ready access to treatment, and different types of other behavioral health facilities. When Washington gets these services up-and-running, it is essential that ongoing, reasonable funding is provided for both operations and facilities so they can be sustained. Please join us in creating solutions to this problem. Together, we can serve people who are experiencing behavioral health crisis and housing instability with more dignity and effectiveness—and ensure our emergency rooms have the
capacity for true emergency care.


Cassie Sauer

President and CEO



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