Friday, April 12, 2013

Putting $$$ where our mouth is on mental health

Earlier this week, House Democrats released a proposed operating budget. There are a lot of highlights – our proposal is the high-water mark on education funding, saves the safety net, and goes all in on Obamacare.

What may have been missed in all the hoopla was the important investments our budget makes in mental health care. Our budget pays for improvements to ensure the mentally ill get the care they need and make Washington a safer place.
  • House Bill 1114: Introduced by Rep. Jamie Pedersen, fills the gap between the criminal justice system and mental health care providers. It ensures that violent mental health offenders get the treatment they need, instead of ending up on the streets.
  • House Bill 1336: A Rep. Tina Orwall measure that requires school counselors and nurses to receive training on suicide prevention – giving these professionals the tools to identify early warning signs of troubled youth and prevent tragedies. 
  • House Bill 1777: Rep. Tami Green’s bill will accelerate the implementation of critical involuntary commitment of people with pressing mental health issues. The new approach will take input from family members and friends into consideration when making a decision to involuntarily commit. We pay for this change two years ahead of schedule. 
  • House Bill 1522: Another Green bill, HB 1522 builds a bridge between hospitals and the community for the mentally ill. It creates a step down from state hospitals – which will provide an important service to folks beginning to transition back into day-to-day life. This isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s the cost-effective approach.
  • House Bill 1627: A Rep. Dawn Morrell bill to give county jails the tools they need to meet the growing demand for competency evaluations. Our county jails aren’t mental health care providers and, without adequate care, the mentally ill deteriorate rapidly in jail.
We’ve seen the tragedies that can occur when the mentally ill don’t get treatment they need. House Democrats believe mental health care is a critical investment – it’s just one of many priorities we will be fighting for in coming weeks.

Photo: Members of the House Health Care Committee discuss budget priorities.