O’Ban: Mental health needs to be Legislature’s top priority

Today the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it will decertify Western State Hospital, the state’s largest psychiatric hospital, from a federal program after a failed two-year attempt by Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration to bring the hospital back in line with federal requirements. Sen. Steve O’Ban, Republican leader of the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee, is urging Inslee, who in 2016 vetoed important sections of reform legislation related to the hospital, to step up and show leadership to help resolve ongoing issues at the Lakewood facility.

“Taking care of our most vulnerable is one of government’s primary duties,” said O’Ban, R-University Place, who serves the legislative district that includes WSH. “This is a profound disappointment and breakdown in executive leadership. The loss of approximately $53 million a year is painful and will mean less money to spend on providing adequate mental-health care for patients who have been shortchanged as it is.

“I urge the governor to drop everything, to stay in the state, and give mental-health care his full and undivided attention. If that means calling a special legislative session, do it. We need a plan, or at least the framework of a plan, to solve the management and care issues at WSH and build the infrastructure to replace the civil beds the governor called for at his news conference last month.”