Raising awareness and increasing access to mental health services

May 31, 2019

As May and Mental Health Awareness Month come to a close, I am reflecting on all the efforts WSHA and Washington hospitals make to increase Washington residents’ access to mental health services, especially for the younger members of our communities. On the public policy front, WSHA worked hard on the recently enacted House Bill 1874, known as the Adolescent Behavioral Health Care Access Act, alongside legislators, providers, parent and family advocates, the Washington State Medical Association, and the Washington chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), among others.

The newly enacted law amends several Washington statutes governing behavioral health (substance use disorder and mental illness) services for minors, including laws on adolescent-initiated treatment, family-initiated treatment and health information privacy laws—all toward enabling youth aged 13 to 17 and their families to better access the full continuum of care, from inpatient to outpatient services, with partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient treatment in between.

WSHA has several plans to help members implement the new laws, including releasing a bulletin next week, holding a webinar at the beginning of July and continuing work with the Health Care Authority. Be sure to check the Government Affairs team’s 2019 New Law Implementation Guide for more details.

In the meantime, on the awareness front, WSHA and several members including Fairfax, Smokey Point, Providence, Kaiser Permanente and Swedish, have teams of staff gearing up for the 17th annual NAMIWalks Washington event on Saturday June 8, 2019. I, for one, am very excited to get outside and pound the pavement to help raise awareness and money for mental health.

After all, smart laws and the highest quality care are only part of the equation. Raising awareness is crucial. One in five adolescents aged 13 to 17 live with a serious mental health illness. Half of all cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and it takes 8-to-10 years, on average, to get help after the onset of symptoms. WSHA and hospitals are working hard to close that gap. No one should suffer silently from the effects of his or her illness. If anyone is inclined to donate, you can do so here at the WSHA team page. It’s also not too late to make your own team.

If you see me and my WSHA colleagues on June 8, please come say hello.


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