While the legislature continues to debate hundreds of policy bills, budget writers are also focusing on crafting a supplemental budget for 2016-2017. The legislature enacted a biennial budget for 2015-2017, but this supplemental budget is meant to address emerging needs, such as last summer’s wildfires and the rising costs of prescription drugs.
Recognizing that this is a short session and a supplemental budget, mental health remains our top priority. Other key budget issues we are advocating for include enhanced payment to the most vulnerable hospitals for patients who are Department of Corrections inmates, and protecting rural nursing homes from the negative effects of changes to the nursing home rate formula.
Expand access to mental health providers through student loan repayment. Washington State does not have enough mental health providers to address the growing need in our state for mental health care. In addition, the providers we do have are not evenly distributed across the state. We need to create incentives for people to become mental health providers, and to work in under-served areas. WSHA is working with a coalition to advocate for $3 million in increased loan repayment funding targeted to selected mental health professionals serving safety net populations.
Provide increased capital funds for mental health facilities. There are many communities and organizations that are interested in providing inpatient or crisis mental health services but do not have enough money for capital costs. This year, WSHA is advocating for at least $6 million more for capital funds for mental health competitive grants. Capital funds would be targeted to facilities that will serve involuntarily and publicly funded detained patients, serve under-served geographic areas, and treat patients with significant medical issues.
Action needed: Please contact your Senators and ask them to make funding for mental health a priority in their 2016 supplemental budget. For more information see our recent Inside Olympia.