New program led by Ben Danielson, MD, will tackle youth incarceration

Department news | September 30, 2021

We are excited to announce the creation of a new program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences that seeks to end youth incarceration in Washington State. The proposed AHSHAY Center, Allies in Healthier Systems for Health & Abundance in Youth, will be directed by Ben Danielson, MD. A foundational grant to establish AHSHAY was made by the Bezos Family Foundation.

“Dr. Danielson is a tireless advocate for ensuring the best possible outcomes for youth and their families,” said Mike Bezos, Vice-President and Co-Founder of the Bezos Family Foundation. “Combined with his decades of experience working side-by-side with the community, Dr. Danielson is uniquely qualified to lead this important work to advance positive, evidence-based approaches to ending youth incarceration.”

The mission of AHSHAY will be to end youth incarceration in Washington State by 2030 and to promote paths to opportunity that are youth-centered, community-informed and evidence-based, with a focus on communities historically most impacted by youth incarceration. The Center will promote solutions, including new programs and policy changes, that are centered on the health and well-being of children and youth while considering the overall well-being of families and communities.

“The science is unequivocal when it comes to youth incarceration,” said Danielson. “It has devastating and long-term negative consequences for youth and children and is racist, expensive and leads to recidivism. We want to replace youth incarceration with opportunities to help children and youth, particularly youth of color, be their best.”

Dr. Danielson plans to bring together and collaborate with established programs and experts to accomplish this ambitious but challenging goal. A convening of stakeholders throughout Washington State is being planned for Fall, 2021.

Dr. Danielson, the former medical director of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, will be supported by the Barton Distinguished Endowed Professorship for Youth Justice and Health Equity, made possible by a generous gift from UW Medicine donors Sarah and Rich Barton.

“We are passionate about eliminating the racial disparities in our health care system and our criminal justice system,” said the Bartons. “We stand behind Dr. Danielson’s goal to end youth incarceration and look forward to the benefits he will accrue for our community through his appointment at UW Medicine.”

Dr. Danielson has been selected as the 2021 recipient of the Seattle-King County First Citizen Award which he will receive on October 28, 2021.

Read the UW Medicine news release