I hope you all had a wonderful summer and that you are as happy to see the color changes of fall as I am!
Recently, I took part in unveiling a package of legislation that my colleagues, Sen. Braun and Sen. O’Ban, and I will sponsor in the upcoming legislative session to prioritize mental health care needs across Washington.
What does this mean, exactly? It means…
- Bringing high-quality mental health care into our schools through innovative telemedicine, which can help prevent adolescent suicide.
- Empowering parents and other family members to rescue their adult loved ones from the ravages of drug addiction and severe mental illness through new guardianship laws.
- Expanding the mental health and addiction recovery workforce.
- Expanding proven accountability measures for violent offenders and banning their placement in residential neighborhoods and adult family homes.
- Enabling people to receive more appropriate treatment closer to their support network.
- Allowing state institutions to focus on forensic-commitment patients by asking voters to approve $500 million in bonds over 10 years to expedite construction of community mental health treatment facilities throughout the state.
Bottom line: Prioritizing mental health care in Washington means making this issue the Legislature’s top priority in 2019.
So many Washingtonians from all walks of life suffer from some form of mental illness. Often it is difficult for them to access proper care. We see patients get insufficient medical treatment, get turned away from mental health facilities and get left to spiral out of control. This contributes to the homelessness epidemic and increases suicide, property crime, violent crime and domestic abuse.
Western State Hospital has had very public internal struggles with patient and staff safety and even lost $53 million in federal dollars it desperately needs due to those struggles. You’ve probably even read accounts of an increase in recent attacks on staff. This is unacceptable.
We have a moral duty to care for those who can’t care for themselves. And this includes our parents, children, siblings, friends and neighbors who need adequate mental health care and addiction recovery treatment to function and thrive.
Our caucus is committed to shining a light on the state of our mental health care system with the intent of improving it through a bipartisan effort for all involved. I will keep you informed of our progress on this issue as it develops.