Social and Economic Policy
Behavioral Health

Everyone should have access to affordable, quality behavioral healthcare across a full spectrum of services, from preventative care to inpatient hospitalization, with a workforce sufficient to provide these services.


Issue Team Chair: Mary Lynne Courtney, mlcourtney@lwvwa.org, (360) 318-3443
 DOWNLOAD the Behavioral Health Issue Paper
Interested in getting involved with this topic? Click here! 


Bill Tracking

Weekly Reports


Bill Descriptions


Get Involved

Overview

The League at both the state and national level supports access to affordable and quality behavioral healthcare for all. Restrictions to access, and provider availability and reimbursement have always plagued behavioral healthcare. However, these issues have only been exacerbated recently given the shocks of the pandemic and social isolation.

During the last session legislation was passed addressing some of these issues, such as providing additional partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient services for youth, implementing a crisis hotline (988), increasing the availability of telehealth services, and establishing and funding minimum numbers of school nurses, social workers, and guidance counselors in schools.

In the upcoming session, it is likely that legislation will be introduced to increase the behavioral health workforce, facilitate access to behavioral health services in underserved areas and for underserved populations, provide behavioral health services in locations convenient and familiar to persons who might need those services (places such as schools and physicians’ offices), and provide additional behavioral health resources across the spectrum of care.

Bill Tracking

Senate Bills Senate House After Passage
Bill # Bill Name (Brief Title) League Position Take Action In Committee On Floor Calendar Passed  In Committee On Floor Calendar Passed  Passed Legislature On Governor's Desk Signed
SB 5036 Concerning telemedicine Supports









SB 5095 Concerning the “parks Rx” health and wellness pilot programs Supports
x








SB 5120 Establishing 23-hour crisis relief centers in Washington state Supports
x








SB 5130 Concerning assisted outpatient treatment Supports









SB 5189 Establishing behavioral health support specialists. Supports
x








SB 5351 Addressing the collection, sharing, and selling of consumer health data Supports
x








SB 5354 Aligning social worker licensing requirements Supports
x








SB 5422 Providing access to behavioral health services to children using licensed clinicians co-located within the school Supports
x








SB 5506 Establishing an enhanced behavior support homes model Supports x








House Bills House Senate After Passage
Bill # Bill Name (Brief Title) League Position Take Action In Committee On Floor Calendar Passed  In Committee On Floor Calendar Passed  Passed Legislature On Governor's Desk Signed
HB 1021 Aligning social worker licensing requirements. Supports









HB 1027 Concerning telemedicine Supports









HB 1041 Authorizing the prescriptive authority of psychologists. Supports
x








HB 1134 Implementing the 988 behavioral health crisis response and suicide prevention system Supports
x








HB 1155 Addressing the collection, sharing, and selling of consumer health data Supports x








HB 1168 Providing prevention services, diagnoses, treatment, and support for prenatal substance exposure Supports
x









Weekly Reports

These weekly updates will provide you with a "deep dive" into the progress of each bill, along with more analysis of the potential impact of the bill if it should pass. 


Bill Descriptions

SB 5095 Concerning the “parks Rx” health and wellness pilot programs. The bill establishes a minimum of three 2-year pilot programs that will incentivize residents, particularly those from communities experiencing inequities or without ready access to physical fitness facilities, to regularly use public parks and recreation sites in order to enable better physical and mental health outcomes and decrease visits to hospitals and clinics.  The effectiveness of the pilot programs would be evaluated.

SB 5120 Establishing 23-hour crisis relief centers in Washington state.  This bill provides for the establishment of 23-hour crisis relief centers.  These are community-based facilities open 24-7, offering access to brief (<24 hours) care for persons experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.  They would accept walk-ins and drop-offs from ambulance, fire, and police.

SB 5130 Concerning assisted outpatient treatment.  When deemed appropriate, this bill provides for a less restrictive mental health treatment option than inpatient hospitalization for persons who have been involuntarily committed.

SB 5189 Establishing behavioral health support specialists. This bill establishes the profession of behavioral health support specialist.  After completing a clinical training program, including a practicum, this person would be certified to deliver brief, evidence-based behavioral interventions under the supervision of licensed behavioral health provider. This would increase access to behavioral health services and ease workforce shortages.

SB 5422 Providing access to behavioral health services to children using licensed clinicians co-located within the school.  This bill requires that managed care organizations reimburse a behavioral health agency for providing medically necessary behavioral health services in a school setting to students in that school who are enrolled in a Medicaid program.  Allowing for reimbursement for services provided in a school setting would allow more children who need services to access them.. It would eliminate many barriers to treatment due to time, distance, or transportation. 

SB 5506 Establishing an enhanced behavior support homes model.  This bill establishes an enhanced behavior support homes program.  This program would provide intensive behavioral services and support so that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who also have challenging behaviors that cannot be safely managed in the typical supported housing situation, could live in a community setting rather than being institutionalized. 

HB 1021/ SB 5354 Aligning social worker licensing requirements.  This bill would change (lessen) the number of hours of supervision required for licensure for social workers, marriage and family counselors, and mental health counselors to align with national standards, thus facilitating licensure in Washington State for persons licensed in other states.  This change is particularly important for military spouses.

HB 1027/SB 5036 Concerning telemedicine. These are companion bills. They extend the time frame (until 07/2024) in which real-time telemedicine, using audio or audio-video technology may be used.  Telemedicine has provided increased access to medical and behavioral health services during the pandemic.  These bills would extend these benefits.

HB 1041 Authorizing the prescriptive authority of psychologists.  This bill would authorize specially trained psychologists to prescribe medication, thus adding additional prescribing providers to the behavioral health workforce.  There are five other states where psychologists are allowed to prescribe.

HB 1134 Implementing the 988 behavioral health crisis response and suicide prevention system.  This bill has several provisions regarding the 988 crisis hotline, mostly changes and enhancements due things learned during the initial implementation.  It extends several dates related to reporting, and funding of the crisis call centers; establishes liability protection for activities related to the dispatching decisions of 988 crisis hotline staff, directs the Department of Health to develop informational materials and a social media campaign to promote the 988 crisis hotline, directs the University of Washington to establish a crisis training and secondary trauma program for personnel in the behavioral health crisis system, and establishes mobile rapid response crisis teams to respond to the 988 calls when needed.

HB 1155/SB 5351 Addressing the collection, sharing, and selling of consumer health data (aka, Washington, My Health, My Data Act).  These are companion bills.  Generally, people assume that their healthcare information is private and this privacy is protected by a federal law, HIPAA.  However, health data collected by certain apps and websites is not covered.  This bill closes these gaps in privacy protections for healthcare data.  Privacy is particularly important in regard to certain sensitive healthcare data such as reproductive health care, gender-affirming care, and behavioral health diagnoses.  Exposure of an individual’s healthcare information could have negative consequences, and concerns about exposure might hinder someone from seeking health information or care.

HB 1168 Providing prevention services, diagnoses, treatment, and support for prenatal substance exposure. This bill would provide for increased access to services for children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and other prenatal substance disorders, as well as increasing prevention efforts.


How To Be Involved
  • Local Leagues in Washington have action chairs who coordinate action teams. Some local Leagues have health care teams to take action locally. Contact your local League action chair to find out and join.
  • You may also express your opinion on legislation with the LWVWA issue chairs. We will take your perspectives under considerations as we determine our support for legislation and prepare testimony. Mary Lynne Courtney, Behavioral Health Issue Chair, mlcourtney@lwvwa.org.
  • Another way to be involved is to join the Healthcare Affinity Group meetings on Zoom. The group meets every six weeks during the legislative session. If you are interested, please email Kim Abbey at kabbey48@gmail.com for the date of the next meeting and a link.

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