O’Ban bill opening the door to mental health professionals from other states to care for Washington patients heads to governor’s desk for signature

OLYMPIA…One of the biggest issues facing mental-health and addiction recovery providers is finding qualified, certified staff to provide care. A bill that passed the Legislature today will make it easier for most mental-health and addiction recovery professionals to achieve Washington state certification, thereby attracting to Washington qualified professionals and expanding the available behavioral-health workforce.

Under Senate Bill 5054, sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, the Washington State Department of Health must establish a reciprocity program for applicants for licensure and certification as a psychologist, chemical dependency professional, mental-health counselor, or marriage and family therapist in Washington. Applicants must hold or have held within the past 12 months a license or certification that is substantially equal to or greater than the scope of what is required in Washington State.

“We want to put to immediate use the skills of military spouses and others moving to Washington State holding critical mental health and addiction recovery licenses and certifications. Interstate reciprocity is a necessary tool in the toolbox we’re using to reform mental-health in Washington,” said O’Ban. “Senate Bill 5054 will make it easier to recruit behavioral-health professionals from other states because providers can begin treating patients much more quickly. If another state has similar or more intensive requirements for licensure or certification than we do, it only makes sense to help providers with those licenses and certifications to hit the ground running here when the need for more staffing is so great.”

Applicants would receive a probationary license or certification while their application is pending. The DOH must also look into the possibility of creating an interstate compact for counseling licensure.

SB 5054 now heads to the governor’s desk for a signature.