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Racism as a Public Health Crisis in King County

Racism as a Public Health Crisis in King County

On June 11, 2020, the Executive declared racism a public health crisis. All of King County government is committed to implementing a racially equitable response to this crisis, centering on community.


  • Anti-racist
  • Focus where negative impacts have been most harmful
  • Center on Black, Native & Brown experiences and voices
  • Responsive, adaptive, transparent and accountable
  • Focus on addressing root causes

Announcements & Updates

King County and The Gathering Collaborative launch $25 million in grants to address Racism is a Public Health Crisis

King County, in partnership with The Gathering Collaborative, began accepting applications for $25 million worth of grants for community-led organizations, non-profits, groups, or businesses that are dismantling systemic racism, working to undo its harms, and addressing racism as a public health crisis.

Building on previous work to advance equity, racial, and social justice for all people, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Public Health-Seattle and King County declared racism as a public health crisis in 2020, and committed to centering Black and Indigenous communities in developing solutions that aim to repair the harm and bring healing and well-being. 

In March of 2022, The Gathering Collaborative, a group of diverse community members, along with co-chairs Abigail Echo-Hawk, Dr. Ben Danielson, and Executive Dow Constantine, formed to uplift Black and Indigenous people and their communities. The Gathering Collaborative is a community co-creation effort with a main goal to determine how to equitably distribute $25 million to advance economic and racial justice through a grantmaking process.

The Gathering Collaborative and King County government have jointly prioritized these investments to make meaningful progress to address the harms of racism on Black and Indigenous communities who, based on extensive research and data nationally and in King County, most negatively experience the generational, current, and longstanding impacts of racism, making it a public health crisis.  

The grant application portal is now open and includes the following grant categories: General grants for community service providers; capacity building grants for small, grassroots community service providers; small business grants; and physical infrastructure grants. 

More information on the grant categories and Gathering Collaborative funding priorities can be found on the application portal and on our website at

“The deepest wells of harm from racism, both historically and currently, are borne by Black and Indigenous communities,” said Dr. Ben Danielson, Co-Chair of Racism is a Public Health Crisis. “These communities have had the opportunity to sculpt this grant effort, creating an approach for getting resources to those most negatively impacted by racism, and building some enduring anti-racist approaches into the process of governance. This holds promise for affording universal benefit to all who have experienced injustice and harm.”  

“Communities directly impacted by this country’s Indigenous erasure and anti-blackness know what they need best to prosper and thrive. The Gathering Collaborative shifted the power to Indigenous and Black communities to lead the way on interrupting and repairing the harms of ongoing racism and determining the best community-centered solutions for building wellness in the communities they represent and serve,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, Co-Chair of Racism is a Public Health Crisis.

“King County government has a responsibility to confront the truth of racism and the ongoing and historical harms that it has caused. Committing this $25 million to drive transformational change intentionally and urgently takes on the public health crisis that is racism, particularly in Black and Indigenous communities,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine, Co-Chair of Racism is a Public Health Crisis. “By focusing where needs are greatest, we can create equitable opportunities for every person in King County to thrive.” 

Past News Releases:




Dr. Ben Danielson and Abigail Echo-Hawk will serve alongside King County Executive Dow Constantine as co-chairs of King County’s Racism is a Public Health Crisis (RPHC) community oversight committee to oversee a $25 million community fund.

King County Executive Dow Constantine named Abigail Echo-Hawk, Executive Vice President of Seattle Indian Health Board and the Director of the Urban Indian Health Institute, and Dr. Ben Danielson, M.D. of the University of Washington as co-chairs for the County’s Racism is a Public Health Crisis community oversight committee.

Executive Constantine and then-director of Public Health Patty Hayes declared racism a public health crisis in June of 2020 in acknowledgment of centuries of systemic racism and colonialism, and in response to the centuries-long crisis in our society. The declaration’s intent is to make clear acknowledgement and initiate a set of investments to “disrupt and dismantle racism and protect the health and well-being of Black, Indigenous People and People of Color.”

Following the declaration, the King County Council adopted related budget and policy priorities, and the new committee will oversee the establishment of a community process to guide the equitable use of $25 million in federal funding to further economic recovery and help set the course for the next phases of the County's anti-racism work. Read the full version here.


Abigail Echo-Hawk, MA, is a citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. She is the Executive Vice President of Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB) and the Director of their data and research division, Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI). She is dedicated to undoing systems of structural racism to achieve vibrant thriving communities through community engagement, advocacy, policy, research, and decolonizing data from an Indigenous perspective. Abigail serves on numerous committees locally and nationally including King County Children and Youth Advisory Board, Tribal Collaboration Working Group with the NIH All of Us Research Program, Advisory Committee for Health Equity Research at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and many more.

“Racism in all its forms has created and continues to perpetuate health and socioeconomic disparities in our BIPOC communities, and I am honored to co-chair a committee that recognizes racism as a public health crisis and is dedicated to addressing root causes,” said Echo-Hawk. “I am looking forward to working with Dr. Ben Danielson and King County Executive Dow Constantine to build solutions by BIPOC communities, for BIPOC communities.”


Dr. Ben Danielson is a clinical professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington. He also serves on various boards of health-related organizations, philanthropic organizations, and community groups dedicated to health issues. He chairs the Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities, co-chaired the Governor’s Task Force on creating an Office of Equity, chairs the Group Health Foundation Board, is a board member on King County’s Children and Youth Advisory Board, and has been on King County’s Board of Health. He is on a number of organizational boards for organizations that work to enrich youth futures and realize beloved communities. The unifying thread in Dr. Danielson’s activities relates to promoting well-being and dignity, especially for communities who have been pushed aside. He has found opportunities within and outside of systems to advocate in partnership with groups and individuals who are dedicated and passionate about creating a better world. He realizes he is the least useful member of the circles he joins, and he is inspired - every day - by the children, families, communities and organizations with whom he interacts.

"Racism and its odious kin harm bodies, minds, communities and futures. Racism measurably takes lives, erases dignity, and robs us of the kind of society we would all benefit from. I cherish the opportunity to join in this effort. This effort represents earnest labor to take on the deeply rooted and constant flow of racism," said Danielson. "This can only happen if this process is driven by the voices of those most impacted by racism. I see this as a significant down payment in truly making anti-racism an action term in King County. Financial resource alone won't do it and short timelines are short-sighted when it comes to this work. An investment like this, along with the best possible community-centering co-creation process affords a unique chance to assure that the aspirational words on paper actually become meaningful change."

The $25M allocated to advance economic and racial justice is allocated through the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (CLFR), a part of the American Rescue Plan. These federal dollars come with numerous federal compliance requirements. We want to minimize the potential impacts of those requirements on applicants and be able to effectively support them through any grantmaking processes.

In the coming months, the co-chairs will engage with community partners to develop the governance structure and will listen and adapt to community feedback. That feedback will be used to inform the approaches to be used by the Committee, which is anticipated to be established late this summer.

There will be many opportunities for community input around the establishment of the community oversight committee and the allocation of funds. We invite you to begin providing input now on the equitable allocation of funds using the form below.

If you are interested in providing input on the equitable allocation of the fund for economic recovery of BIPOC communities, or want to receive periodic updates, please fill out this form.

Policy Priorities

Since declaring that Racism is a Public Health Crisis in June 2020, King County committed to being intentionally anti-racist and accountable to Black, Brown, and Indigenous People of Color. The goal of the proposed 2021-2022 policy agenda and budget is to meet the needs of and implement positive changes for Black, Brown and Indigenous People of Color here in King County, with a deliberate focus on Black and Indigenous people, children, and families.

King County seeks to provide ongoing care and resources that support the whole person. Our collective success across this region will depend on recognizing and acknowledging the specific ways in which Black and Indigenous People of Color are disproportionately affected and profoundly impacted by racially inflicted trauma and oppression. This focus also acknowledges the complex intersection of disabilities, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, and other identities that are part of systems of power and privilege.

County government developed a policy agenda and budget that purposefully centers the voices and lived experiences of communities across the region most impacted by systemic racism and economic inequity. These Executive proposals were developed based on the requests, immediate needs, and specific priorities voiced by local government, systems, and the community.

The policy goals fall within the following categories:

Public Health, Behavioral Health and Housing

Infrastructure and Environment

Economic Development

Criminal Legal System

Internal King County Operations


Budgets reflect values. The 2021-2022 Proposed Budget includes new investments and transformations in the criminal legal system, as well as funding priorities for anti-racism, pro-equity work, developed in partnership with advocates, community members, and public servants throughout King County government. These investments start to shift the historic and current power structure and represent a down payment toward a long-term and permanent shift in all County policies and operations needed to ensure Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) can thrive in King County.

Read more about the proposed investments here.

Press releases:


Community Engagement

All of King County government is committed to implementing a racially equitable response to this crisis, centering on community. Intentional and meaningful community engagement leading to co-creation is foundational to King County’s success in living its value of leading with racial justice, and effectively becoming a more anti-racist government and region. The 2021-2022 Budget makes investments to enhance the County’s approach to working in partnership with communities. To that end, the County is partnering with and providing resources to community-based organizations serving and rooted in BIPOC communities across the County to improve trust, ensure engagement is equitable and community-driven, and begin to heal from and repair institutional harm.

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced $200,000 in grants awarded to 24 community-based organizations across the region to gather input and provide direction on King County’s anti-racist policy agendas and budget priorities. The grants provide funding for community engagement through January 2021, after which the recipients will report summaries of their findings to King County. The Public Health Crisis Core Team will use the reports and qualitative data to further align policy and budget priorities towards an anti-racist agenda, including accountability and identifying any missing pieces based on community feedback. Read more in the press release, including translated versions.

Additional King County commitments to community engagement are linked here.


King County Commuinty Engagement Update
King County is committed to providing updates and feedback on how we are partnering with community to further the work of Racism as a Public Health Crisis. Please see the linked Public Health Insider Blog post to learn more.

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography