Washington is facing serious behavioral health challenges. We ask our legislators, “Which way will you choose?” Will 2019 be the year that the Washington legislature finally makes real, lasting, sustainable improvements in behavioral health care? Or will they once again apply a few band-aids and put off the tough decisions into the future?
The behavioral health care challenges are plentiful and will require comprehensive well thought out and fully implemented solutions. A few of the challenges are:

– Creating a community based mental health care system so that the patients now receiving involuntary treatment at our two state psychiatric hospitals can receive that care in their communities.

– Implementing the Trueblood settlement agreement so people detained in our jails no longer wait too long for their competency to stand trial evaluation and, if necessary, their competency restoration.

– Promoting early detection and intervention of mental illness by integrating mental health education into the K – 12 curriculum.

– Developing a sufficiently sized and properly trained behavioral health care workforce to deliver the needed services.

– Building a new Western State Hospital as a forensic center of excellence.

– Providing stable housing with appropriate supportive services.

These solutions will require new programs, people, and facilities to succeed. Implementing these solutions will require the legislature to fund significant increases in behavioral health operating and capital investments.
Governor Inslee’s proposed budget calls for transforming Washington’s behavioral health care system. He calls for increasing behavioral health care spending by $675 million in the 2019-2021 biennium. Another $550 million capital spending is earmarked for the 2021-2023 and 2023-2025 bienniums.

NAMI Washington and its affiliates are already laying the foundation for our 2019 advocacy. We are working towards helping the legislature chose the path to real, lasting, sustainable change. NAMI Washington is leading a behavioral health lobbying coalition including hospitals, providers, consumers, and labor groups. They have developed an agenda. They are advancing that agenda with staff and legislators even before the session starts.

Local grassroots support can positively impact legislators’ decisions. NAMI Lobby Day in Olympia is on February 18. This will be your chance to make your voice heard. Register now to participate in NAMI Lobby Day HERE.