Washington’s mental health system is in crisis. Too many of our most vulnerable citizens are suffering with mental illness and substance addictions due to the lack of community behavioral health services. These barriers prevent patients from receiving the care they desperately need. In recent years, the Legislature’s focus point was appropriately on fully funding education. Now it is time for lawmakers to provide that same level of attention and commitment to improving and reforming our mental health and addiction recovery systems. We must ensure that our mentally ill get the treatment they need and deserve.
We need to act now. The recent federal decertification of Western State Hospital by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services – and the over $50 million in federal reimbursement authority we lost with it – means we used the last of our mulligans.
We need to empower parents to help their mentally ill and addicted adult children living on the streets get the care they need, expand the mental health workforce, protect communities from the release of violent offenders and ban their placement in residential neighborhoods. We also need to bring high-quality mental health care into our schools and build the infrastructure needed to care for our mentally ill in their communities where their family and other supports live.