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The 26,000 nurses and healthcare workers of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW are pleased to see Governor Inslee release a budget that reflects our shared values. It is time to make investments in healthy communities and this budget is a sustainable and equitable way forward. Years of cuts to human services and budgets funded by regressive and insufficient revenues have left us with a mental health system that denies patients their rights and communities the care they need.

This budget has important investments in mental health, particularly around inpatient capacity including new beds funded by new revenue—not cuts in other critical areas. The courts are holding our state accountable to fully treating those living with mental illness, and the Governor has responded by highlighting the insufficient and unsustainable tax structure that has for too long failed our clients and left them strapped to gurneys in hospitals or languishing in our jails.

But even this isn’t enough. We need to look beyond the crisis symptoms and invest in long term solutions. We need investments today in our community mental health system in order to prevent crises in our hospitals and jails. Getting ahead of the treatment needs of those dealing with serious mental illness and chemical dependency issues will take investments, but it will be more effective and less costly to prevent crisis than respond to it.

This budget is an important and honest step forward to say that we need more revenue and it needs to be a shared responsibility, not on the backs of working people and our most vulnerable residents. Today we’re getting started on building a better future for those living with mental illness and reversing the crisis that we have created through years of sustained budget cuts. Investments in inpatient care are a needed step, and we need to follow through with a full commitment to the outpatient services that prevent our neighbors living with mental illness from ever reaching a crisis point.

As frontline nurses and healthcare workers, we urge the Legislature to similarly prioritize mental health and new revenue.

Sign up for mental health lobby day on Monday, January 19 from 8am-5pm – RSVP to your organizer.

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