Governor Inslee today released his revisions to the 2015-2017 biennial budget, placing priority on education, relief for the state’s devastating 2015 wildfires and urgent mental health needs.
The Governor had an additional $245 million in revenue to work with, in part thanks to the state’s economic growth. He also proposed closing tax loopholes and spending money out of the budget stabilization account. He faced a number of issues requiring significant spending – including paying for last summer’s wildfires and increasing prescription drug costs.
We thank the Governor, in particular, for his support of mental health, one of WSHA’s top legislative priorities. The budget provides more than $90 million in mental health investments:
- Long-term treatment at state psychiatric hospitals: Salary raises and bonuses to recruit and retain psychiatrists and psychiatric staff ($9.5 million), 51 additional nurses for Western State Hospital ($6.8 million) and 38 new staff to complete maintenance projects for regulatory compliance ($5 million).
- Short-term treatment in the community: Four new 16-bed triage facilities for assessment, diagnosis and treatment for those suffering from acute mental health crises ($5.2 million), and three new mobile crisis teams ($2.8 million).
- Transition out of inpatient facilities: Four new housing and recovery services teams that provide assistance to those leaving inpatient mental health treatment ($2.8 million) and 22 new bridge team members to assist with discharge and community reintegration for patients leaving state psychiatric hospitals ($1.8 million).
- Regional Support Network increases: Funding for moving substance abuse and mental health services into the state’s new Behavioral Health Organizations, in line with federal law for actuarially sound rates ($58.6 million).
Funding for mental health is a top priority for WSHA. The backlog of patients waiting to be transferred to the state’s psychiatric facilities is particularly taxing on the health care community. Patients in need of long-term treatment (more than 90 days) should be transferred to a state psychiatric hospital, allowing local hospitals to provide short-term psychiatric care, as intended. Many patients in need of long-term care are housed in these short-term facilities at local hospitals.
Other key issues:
- Medicaid cost increases: The state is facing significantly increasing Medicaid costs, largely due to the rising cost of prescription drugs. The Health Care Authority requested about $200 million more to fund the actuarially adjusted rates.
- Charity care: Ensuring hospitals are complying with charity care laws and rules ($100,000).
- Immunization tracking: Implementing a new module for validating childhood immunizations ($511,000).
- Healthiest Next Generation: Supporting children’s health in early learning settings, schools and communities ($264,000).
The Legislature will convene on Jan. 11, 2016. Both the House and Senate will propose their own versions of the budget, and then all sides must negotiate a budget all can agree to. WSHA will continue to advocate for key budget priorities, and urges members to communicate with their own legislators about the need for funding mental health.