Republican Senators In Washington Propose New Mental Health Care Laws

Washington State could be undergoing some new steps in the direction of mental health care reform, reports the Washington State Wire. On Wednesday, three Republican senators in the state of Washington proposed mental health care reforms that would change the way the state treats mental illness and addiction care. Senators Steve O’Ban, John Braun, and Randi Becker introduced five changes to current policy that they say will improve the state’s care policies. The senators said that the state is experiencing a crisis in mental health, and the five improvements they are proposing would make it easier for those in need to receive care.

“Our state faces a crisis in providing adequate, safe and effective treatment for people with mental illnesses. We know that treating people with mental illness in their community keeps them closer to their support network and improves long-term outcomes,” said Senator Braun.

A total of five bills were proposed Wednesday. The first regarded the creation of a guardian program, which would require the state to allow those who are “gravely incapacitated” to be assigned a guardian who would ensure they receive the continuous care that they require.

The second two bills discussed an increase in mental health care workers in the state, and in the Offender Re-entry Community Safety Program, which helps released criminals who are mentally ill readjust in society. Another notable bill is one that would increase mental health support in schools to identify students who are in danger of struggling with violence, suicide, and substance abuse. The final bill asks approval of $500 million in bonds from voters so that mental health care facilities can be built throughout the state. That way, long-term care patients might not have to sacrifice long drives to receive essential care.

“You don’t want to keep shipping them off to Western State Hospital hundreds of miles away in some cases. You want to keep them where their family is, where their health care provider is,” Senator O’Ban said, as reported by MY Northwest.

The new proposed legislation is being unveiled two years after Crosscut reported that Washington had the largest percentage of mentally ill citizens per capita compared to all other U.S. states. To top that off, the state had the second worst ranked mental health care system in the whole country, as of 2016. Apparently, the problem existed before the recession, but cuts were made to the program during the financial crisis, which did not help. Perhaps the newly proposed bills will begin to make a dent in the looming problem.