Strength in Numbers: King County Service Organizations Pool Their Money and Resources

Mental Health Services Program for Youth Replication

Starting in May 1996, the King County Blended Funding Project was a cooperative effort to create a system of care to meet the needs of the most difficult-to-serve and high-cost children, youth, and their families in King County.

The systems of care agreed to take a new approach by blended funds, creating a single care manager, managing costs and services at the child and family team level and tracking outcomes.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program Mental Health Services Program for Youth Replication.

Key Results:

  • An agreement was signed to pool funds from the systems of care involved in the project (mental health, children and family services, and school districts) and to establish an Administrative Service Organization. The Administrative Service Organization contracted with two care management entities and with service providers to provide needed care.
  • During the planning stage, there was a concerted effort to have families involved in the development of the project. The families became advocates for children in multiple systems and the family group became integral in several areas of operation.

    Families were heavily involved in the evaluation design and helped create tools to measure the following outcomes.

The Evaluation: The evaluation also compared the costs of care in the new system with historical costs of traditional services.

Preliminary conclusions were that "the significant improvements in all process measures are quite remarkable and encouraging…. However… the number of children on whom we have made a follow-up assessment is small. The possibility that these results are not based on a random sampling of the Blended Funding participants must be examined."