Post navigation

Prev: (03/02/22) | Next: (03/02/22)

The ‘oldest LGBTQ-focused community mental health agency in the world’ is about to close its doors in Seattle — UPDATE

(Image: SCS)

After more than 50 years of providing mental health and general wellness services in the city, Seattle Counseling Service has announced it will shut down in April.

“Many factors have led the Seattle Counseling Service board to make this decision, mainly financial,” the SCS announcement reads. “Like many organizations and businesses, SCS has struggled during the pandemic along with the changing landscape of service options and insurance payment models.”

The longtime part of the city’s community of queer health and wellness services and “the oldest LGBTQ-focused community mental health agency in the world” moved its offices off Capitol Hill in the summer of 2020.

But two years after its move, April 15th will mark its final day in its new Sixth and Lenora Building home.

UPDATE: Board vice-chair Gunner Scott tells CHS that the organization’s lease for the new space signed right before the pandemic contributed to the financial burdens with community rooms and offices going unused during COVID-19 restrictions. Scott said shifts in health care especially streamlining of programs supported by King County also weighed on SCS’s finances. “An organization that serves a specific population, we’re not necessarily going to fit into the same model as a general population organization,” Scott said. A major dropoff in giving sealed the deal as Scott said donations plummeted during the pandemic continuing what he said was a trend of philanthropic malaise faced by LGBTQ organizations in the wake of major successes including marriage equality.

 

SUBSCRIBE AND KEEP CHS PAYWALL-FREE -- $1/$5/$10
We love providing community news on CHS free for thousands of readers. What sustains the effort are voluntary subscriptions from paying supporters. If you are enjoying CHS, SUBSCRIBE HERE and help keep CHS available to all. Become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with no paywall. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.

 

The pain of deciding to close SCS was softented a little by progress in “mainstream nonprofit organizations” serving, employing, and being guided by LGBTQ individuals but “yes, it is a loss,” Scott said. Some will be comfortable with providers not focused on queer communities, he said, but many want LGBTQ+ focused providers and therapists who “understand who you love.”

There will also be help. “We’ve heard from a number of sister agencies that want to support our clients and our patients,” Scott said.

SCS’s board has included a mix of BIPOC advocates, tech executives, and Capitol Hill community members and SCS has been led by interim CEO Danie Eagleton. In 2019, the last year it provided reporting to the state, the nonprofit recorded annual revenue of nearly $5.6 million in giving, grants, and payments but was reporting expenses of more than $5.3 million. It reported total assets of $4.3 million to end that year.

(Image: SCS)

The financial makeup of SCS has changed greatly in the past decade. In 2012, it reported revenue of less than $2 million.

The tough news for SCS comes as another leader in the LGBTQ+ health and wellness services community is preparing to move into new offices on Capitol Hill. In October, CHS reported on plans for Gay City to move into a new building later this year on E Pine.

We have reached out to Eagleton and SCS to learn more about the financial impact of the pandemic and the decision to shut down the organization and will update when we learn more.

In the meantime, SCS is no longer accepting new clients but says it is working with King County to” transition current clients to outside referrals and other community resources around the state.”

You can learn more at seattlecounseling.org.

 

SUBSCRIBE AND KEEP CHS PAYWALL-FREE -- $1/$5/$10
We love providing community news on CHS free for thousands of readers. What sustains the effort are voluntary subscriptions from paying supporters. If you are enjoying CHS, SUBSCRIBE HERE and help keep CHS available to all. Become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with no paywall. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.

 
Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
19 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nikole Zamora
Nikole Zamora
5 months ago

This sucks. The mental health system is already strapped as it is and this just adds to an already strapped system.

TeaPlease
TeaPlease
5 months ago

WOW.

After 53 years I think we need a little more accountability to the community than some hand waving about service reimbursement models, especially if they had assets of 4 million just a few years ago.

Who has a guess on why? Botched expansion plans? Can’t afford the new location? Someone stole the money? Staff implosion? What? We need to understand why these community institutions fall apart to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

Here’s my anecdote – I once tried to go there for couples counseling and they refused to see us together without three separate pre-meetings that were scheduled out over months. They wanted to screen for DV and ensure the therapist could be comfortable and handle the situation. We never made it through all the hoops, but remain happily together.

deadrose
deadrose
5 months ago
Reply to  TeaPlease

Or maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with the twin disasters of major funding cuts and a pandemic. Just guessing.

Ann Paris
Ann Paris
5 months ago
Reply to  deadrose

deadrose – probably but the community still deserves accountability and transparency

dsea
dsea
5 months ago
Reply to  TeaPlease

I had a similar challenging experience trying to get mental health services there. Except for me, the counselors would quit continuously. No one would call after a counselor quit and voicemails wouldn’t be returned. After 5 visits and 3 counselors leaving SCS, I looked elsewhere for care.

While I’m saddened that the community is losing this resource, I can’t say I’m surprised. I never recommended SCS to anyone I knew who needed care.

Distressed
Distressed
5 months ago
Reply to  dsea

That’s too bad because despite what happened to you, they have helped me immemsely and countless others to have a safe space to get mental health therapy.

Lynn M
Lynn M
5 months ago
Reply to  TeaPlease

I think there is more to this than we know.

Ann Paris
Ann Paris
5 months ago
Reply to  Lynn M

yes there is

Alexandria Solus
Alexandria Solus
5 months ago

This is absolutely terrible, they were the center of quality mental healthcare for the trans community and I referred many friends there as a safe place. Now, when we need it most it closes. Resources like this are impossible to replace, and the mental healthcare landscape for LGBT+ people is even more fraught.

Ann Paris
Ann Paris
5 months ago

I agree

TheNation
TheNation
5 months ago

I found out today during my counselling session. They had just found out a few hours before. I’ve put in seven+ years into fixing my mental health, and they have helped so many people I personally recommended to SCS, as well as those in my recovery community. It had its faults like any health agency will. But, it saved my life. Literally.

King County needs its funding and allocations records audited.
They are a massive part of not advocating and channelling funds correctly.

Ann Paris
Ann Paris
5 months ago
Reply to  TheNation

I am sorry for your loss

Distressed
Distressed
5 months ago
Reply to  TheNation

I’m right there with you and found out in my session also. Why wasn’t a warning put out that this was even a possibility!? Something doesn’t smell right.😪

Elusis
Elusis
5 months ago

It’s also a major loss of a training site for various area graduate mental health programs. Many community settings claim to be “welcoming” but in reality don’t go beyond “well we don’t actively discriminate against queer and trans people.” They don’t have supervisors trained in affirming LGBTQ+ care, they don’t offer training to their clinicians on affirming care, they don’t have record and billing systems set up to protect privacy and respect names/pronouns/gender, and they don’t do outreach to queer and trans communities to say “we welcome you here.” So most grads who go on to become LMFTs, LMHCs, and the like don’t get experience working with gender and sexual minority clients. This site was a notable exception and to have it close so rapidly is going to leave a number of students without places to earn their hours as well as abandon clients.

Ann Paris
Ann Paris
5 months ago
Reply to  Elusis

you make a great point

Ann Paris
Ann Paris
5 months ago

The 2020 Annual Report shows 5.8 million in total revenue. How do you go from 5.8 million in revenue to broke in less than two years? How do you destroy a 53 year old historic, unique, and critically important organization in such a short period of time. And there has not been fundraising outreach to the community. Certainly not to the donors who in the past attended ICON and responded to fundraising letters. I have been one of those donors for years. There was no effort to contact the extensive donor list and put it out there – to tell us that SCS was in trouble and needed their help.

Why did the board not ask the community for help from us? There was no virtual fundraising Gala during these last two years. GSBA and other organizations continued to raise money successfully. I know of other small Seattle based non-profits who have increased their budgets and increased their staffing during the pandemic.

If SCS lost major grants well that is painful and very difficult but there must be some way to rescue and restructure the organization in some form. Not just kill SCS.

We all know the high rate of suicide of queer and trans youth. SCS saved lives. Without SCS some of those lives will be lost in the future. The loss of SCS can result in the loss of lives.

SCS is a unique and beloved organization. It is irreplaceable. This is a huge loss for the clients, the staff, and the entire GSBTQI community.
A large ground level fundraising attempt might have bought enough time to find a new grant or a major donor. Why didn’t you ask the community for help?

Did the board not receive a detailed monthly financial report from the Finance department / Finance Director (which was a revolving door).
Could you not see the pattern of decline a year ago from those reports?

The lack of information and transparency is very disturbing.

It is not my intent to be rude or overly critical of the board but the death of SCS is very upsetting and the organization is a major part of our community. It appears that you have kept this financial problem a SECRET and thus prevented supporters from helping with advice or money or fundraising or assistance.

What did I learn in therapy? You are only as sick as your secrets.
Ann

Distressed
Distressed
5 months ago
Reply to  Ann Paris

You just confirmed my fears and now I’m even more sick to my stomach about this.

Distressed
Distressed
5 months ago

I just found this out today from my therapist there. This is BS! Why weren’t “the house is on fire” alarms going off to the public and private sector nd the media before it had to come to this!? I’m so angry and saddened right now! I don’t now what I’m gonna do!

Paul Barwick
Paul Barwick
4 months ago

I was lucky enough to be a low level volunteer at the Seattle Counseling Service For Sexual Minorities, (its full title back then) in the early 1970s working under the supervision of director Elizabeth Rae Larson and the other awesome folks who founded and ran this amazing institution. I am saddened to hear of its demise, but proud that it lasted so long, served so many, and that so many LGBT+ folks and our allies have moved our struggle for equality so far forward in such a small amount of time.