O’Ban responds to governor’s plan to change role of state hospitals

Sen. Steve O’Ban attended a news conference Friday where Gov. Jay Inslee announced that Washington’s two state hospitals will cease taking civil patients in 2023, and focus primarily on forensic patients. The governor unveiled his plan at Western State Hospital, calling for long-term civil patients to be cared for instead in regional facilities located in the patients’ communities so they can stay near their families and support systems. O’Ban joined the governor to show support of the policy shift.

O’Ban, who has been advocating in the state Senate for more community-based facilities for long-term, inpatient care, sponsored legislation in 2017 (SB 5894) and 2018 (SB 6573) that required the state Health Care Authority to build out a community-based long-term care system financed through managed-care plans that would contract with nonprofit behavioral health providers and community hospitals.

“I appreciate the governor’s announcement to set a date certain and force budget writers and state agencies to build out the infrastructure to provide inpatient care for the long-term mentally ill in their communities,” said O’Ban, R-University Place. “We need this new system to be innovative and tailored to the needs of each region, and avoid the one-size-fits-all, rigid approach to long-term, inpatient care that the state hospitals currently offer.

“I am also excited that a community-based approach should solve the problem of patients from other parts of the state who come to WSH and often remain in Pierce County after their release rather than return to their counties of origin because of a lack of community services,” added O’Ban.  “With community-based, long-term care facilities sited across the state and replacing WSH, patients will stay and receive care in their own communities, near their support systems, and have no need to come to Pierce County for long-term, inpatient care.”