Legislature prioritizes funding, policy to address behavioral health – Washington Senate Democrats


OLYMPIA Washington state’s behavioral health system is exiting the 2023 legislative session with nearly $1 billion in new funding and critical innovative initiatives established.

With the launch of Washington’s new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, our state is becoming a national model for behavioral health crisis intervention, said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate. And this year, lawmakers stepped up to deliver on their promise to not only provide the services people in crisis need, but also build a system and workforce that can help prevent crises before they happen. verify.

The 2023 operating budget, signed by the governor today, provides $957 million in behavioral health investments, including support for new legislation passed and signed into this session that will improve behavioral health crisis response, prevent crises, and it will increase the behavioral health workforce.

In addition to SB 5536, which focuses on treatment and funding for a public health approach to substance use disorder, legislation passed in this session includes:

Improving behavioral health crisis response

SB 5120, sponsored by Dhingra, creates an alternative to emergency rooms and prisons for people with behavioral health needs by establishing a system for certified crisis rescue centers. This new type of seizure diversion facility can provide short-term help to patients regardless of acuity behavioral health.

Currently, behavioral health facilities require cumbersome medical clearance before accepting someone in crisis, so first responders instead take them to places that don’t: emergency rooms and prisons.

SB 5120 establishes a framework with no wrong doors, meaning individuals in mental health and substance use crises will not be turned away. In these centres, people can receive short-term care and make connections with long-term services that can help them get used to a stable lifestyle again.

HB 1134, sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) expands the services provided through the 988 crisis hotline. This bill creates an endorsement for 988 rapid response crisis teams, which will be the primary response teams for people experiencing a significant behavioral health emergency that requires an urgent in-person response.

Prevent behavioral health crises

SB 5300, sponsored by Dhingra, allows patients to maintain behavioral health medication regimens that have kept them stable. This bill requires that once a patient with behavioral health is stabilized, health insurance companies cannot request the substitution of other drugs when it is time to refill a prescription.

SB 5228, sponsored by Dhingra, provides occupational therapy services for individuals with behavioral health disorders, including new clients in low-barrier accommodation. Occupational therapists teach basic activities of daily living, household skills, and methods of managing acute symptoms, which can mean the difference between failure and success for clients.

SB 5440, sponsored by Dhingra, enhances our state system to restore jurisdiction to stand trial for individuals with behavioral health disorders. This is part of the state’s ongoing response to the True blood lawsuit filed in 2014.

Increasing the behavioral health workforce

HB 1069, sponsored by Rep. Mari Leavitt (D-University Place), adopts the mental health counselor pact, which will make it easier for behavioral health specialists from out of state to come to work here.

SB 5189, sponsored by Senator Yasmin Trudeau (D-Tacoma), creates certification for behavioral health support specialists who can deliver evidence-based interventions under the supervision of licensed providers.

SB 5555, sponsored by Senator Emily Randall (D-Bremerton), establishes a new state-certified profession of peer specialists to use the skills of individuals who have valuable life experience in providing services to those recovering from mental health or substance use disorder.

HB 1724, sponsored by Rep. Jessica Bateman (D-Olympia), helps strengthen the workforce by bringing qualified behavioral health providers into the field as quickly and safely as possible.

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