New mental health funding source proposed by O’Ban bill

On the heels of the state’s Supreme Court decision that requires more mental health treatment beds be found, and funded, Sen. Steve O’Ban has introduced Senate Bill 5078. O’Ban’s legislation would direct a portion of marijuana-excise taxes to be used for evidence-based programs that promote recovery and reduce the need for inpatient hospitalization.

“We need to take the appropriate steps to provide for our most vulnerable residents,” O’Ban, R-Pierce County, said. “We need to reform how our state delivers these human services and make targeted investments on programs that work.”

Prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion in Washington State, low-income residents were eligible for subsidized health care through the Basic Health Plan. Initiative 502 required that a portion of the marijuana-excise tax be deposited into the Basic Health Plan account. The elimination of this program has put these funds in limbo. The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council projected that $96.5 million for the 2015-17 biennium and $173.5 million for the 2017-19 biennium would be deposited.

O’Ban’s bill which was heard in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee Monday would direct 22 percent of those funds to be used for a slate of mental-health programs including mobile crisis outreach programs; crisis stabilization and crisis triage programs; inpatient transition support programs; or supported housing programs.

“We have an opportunity to make solid investments with a dedicated funding source for mental health programs. With this legislation we are taking one more significant stride to improve mental-health funding. In the 2013 budget we put an additional $72.7 million toward our mental-health system and added another $7.6 million for mental health enhancements in the 2014 supplemental budget,” O’Ban said.