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Gov. Inslee proposes investments in state patients and community behavioral healthcare

Since the recession we’ve seen cuts to our state hospitals, psychiatric care, housing, substance abuse, and community resources. For years we’ve spoken out about the need to fund community mental health as one of the most important elements of our full behavioral health system.

Because of our collective voice in our union, we are taking action together around the needed improvements and changes in our workplace. It’s making a difference: we have 51 new FTE positions for Western State Hospital that we won last year. With these investments, we’re becoming a competitive workplace and filling open positions, improving our staffing and the care we provide.

Now we need to keep going to secure our state employee raises and advocate for investments across the full behavioral health spectrum, including workforce issues including Medicaid rate increases and student loan repayment for behavioral health workers.

Governor Inslee is standing with us to improve care and has proposed these investments to our behavioral health system in the 2017-2019 biennium. These proposed investments are the first step,  next the state House and Senate release their proposed versions of the budget.

  • Funding of our contract to recruit and retain state employees
  • Funding for 137 staff at Western State to help increase direct staff to patient ratios and shore up staffing to meet federal compliance.
  • Nine new 16 bed community behavioral health hospitals to treat civil patients, helping to free up space at Western and Eastern State Hospitals for forensic and civil patients.
  • Three new mobile crisis teams to deliver more timely responses for those in crisis.
  • 60 new step down beds in the community to help discharge patients from our state hospitals.
  • Housing and step down services to secure housing and prevent readmission to state psychiatric hospitals.
  • 13 new case managers to help prepare state hospital patients for community placements.
  • Investments in mobile crisis response teams, walk-in crisis centers, low and no-barrier housing with case managers, step down housing, prevention for prescription and opiod overdose related deaths, and integration of hospital-delivered substance abuse treatments.

Closing tax giveaways for wealthy corporations, creating a tax on the sale of stocks and bonds (capital gains,) and a carbon tax on polluters who aren’t paying their fair share will help generate $4.4 billion in revenue that can be used to support these critical investments.

Years of our hard work, across all worksites, resulted in the inclusion of these important staffing pieces in the Governor’s proposed budget.

Now that the Governor has released his budget to ensure the funding for our victories, the next step is for the House and Senate to release their versions of the budget, which we anticipate will be more difficult. While many legislative leaders are standing with us and ready to support the care we provide, there are many who do not. Together we need to call on legislators to match the funding levels in the Governor Inslee’s budget for our contract and investments in our patients and clients, no less.

Each of us needs to attend the January 19 Lobby Day for state and behavioral health workers, or February 16  for acute care nurses and healthcare workers so we can share our stories about why this funding is so important to ensure every patient and client gets the best care.

“My budget will strengthen our state psychiatric hospitals and redesign the community-based behavioral healthcare system. By transforming the state hospitals, by diverting people from jails to appropriate community care, by improving services for people with substance abuse disorder and by integrating behavioral health with medical care, we will enhance the health outcomes and cut the overall costs of caring for the people of Washington state.” – Governor Jay Inslee

“These investments help us prevent crisis. We need accessible and supportive housing for our clients, along with funding for substance abuse. Without housing people remain in the streets without care, with nowhere to go. Closing these tax breaks is something that should have been done a long time ago; it’s time. We all need to do our part to invest in our communities.” – Tracey Adams, Standard Supportive Case Manager in Seattle

“Full funding of our contract is a step towards strengthening the abuse protection system in our state. In the last few years we’ve taken important steps to fix the staffing crisis, including adding more complaint investigator positions. Positions do not stay filled. Funding these contracts shows an investment in our values as a state to ensure every resident has the safest care.”
Katherine Ander, RN, Residential Care Services

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