Senate committee passes O’Ban bills on improving behavioral health

Two key bills introduced by Sen. Steve O’Ban, were heard and passed out of the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee this week. These bills seek to improve behavioral health care in Washington state.

SB 6491 would simplify and reduce eligibility criteria for assisted outpatient mental health treatment to make it more accessible and broaden the scope to include substance use disorder treatment. The bill would allow for stronger enforcement of court orders for assisted outpatient treatment by placing a person who is struggling in a facility for inpatient treatment. This bill would also allow family members, guardians or conservators of a person who is not detained or committed but struggling with a substance use disorder to file a request that the court require the filing of a petition for assisted outpatient behavioral health treatment for that individual.

“We can’t wait until a patient’s substance use addiction, or mental health condition, deteriorates to the point of involuntary treatment to get them care, said O’Ban, R-University Place. “We need this tool to keep them in the community and involve a judge to help get their attention and order treatment before it’s too late.”

SB 6573 would direct the Health Care Authority to transfer the risk and treatment of long-term civil involuntary committed patients to Managed Care Organizations by 2020. The Department of Social and Health Services and HCA also would be required coordinate with stakeholders to create and submit a transition plan to move the cost of state hospital civil treatment into managed care by the end of 2018. This bill would take the mechanical steps necessary to keep state hospitals largely dedicated to patients who have committed crimes and are waiting to stand trial and allow civil commitments to be transferred to private community facility.

At Sen. O’Ban’s urging, the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee will hold a work session on veterans mental health on Wednesday, Jan. 31.