Washington State’s mental health care system is not meeting all the needs of our growing communities. Several bills being introduced this week could help make more services available.
HB 1546 and SB 5434 (companion bills) would allow general-acute care and freestanding psychiatric community hospitals to provide long-term, court-ordered mental health services. Currently, long-term mental health patients go to Eastern State Hospital and Western State Hospital, when there is a bed available. Patients could be better served when closer to home, communities and families. Patients transitioned out of care when close to home with community supports are less likely to be readmitted.
One of the barriers is the state’s Certificate of Need (CN) law, which is designed to keep communities from overbuilding unnecessary capacity—that’s not the situation we’re in now. Understanding this, the legislature has twice allowed licensed hospitals to be exempted from CN processes for adding psychiatric beds, but those provisions are set to expire. After meeting certain conditions, HB 1547 and SB 5446 (companion bills) would exempt psychiatric beds from CN until 2019. This will allow hospitals that want to expand services to do so more quickly and efficiently. (Chelene Whiteaker)
House Health Care & Wellness: Tuesday, January 31, 8:00 a.m. (HB 1546 and HB 1547)
Senate Human Services, Mental Health, and Housing: Tuesday, January 31, 1:30 p.m. (SB 5434 only)