Town Hall Invite, Boosting Behavioral Health, & Empowering Edu!

Dear friends and neighbors,  

As we navigate the intricacies of our state’s fiscal landscape, I am pleased to let you know that the House budget will be released mid-month. In this edition of our newsletter, read on for this week’s survey, a virtual town hall invite, and some key highlights of the Governor’s proposed budget, exploring its potential impact on our community and shedding light on the crucial elements that will shape our legislative discussions in the weeks to come. 

Thanks so much to those of you who took the time to respond to our education funding survey. You can view the results here. Please take a moment to fill out this week’s survey 

Survey Button

You’re Invited to Our Virtual Town Hall!

I’m delighted to invite you to the 11th Legislative District Virtual Town Hall with myself and Rep. Hackney on Friday, February 16th, from 2:30-5pm. All attendees must sign up for a 15-minute time slot ahead of time. To register, please email Hope to see you there!

Strengthening Behavioral Health Services

I’m thrilled to update you on two significant advancements that underscore our commitment to enhancing mental health services in our community.

Expanding Capacity and Enhancing Facilities

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has acquired the Cascade Behavioral Health hospital in Tukwila, now named Olympic Heritage Behavioral Health. This move is a proactive step to expand our state-run bed capacity for behavioral health patients. As patients transition from Western State Hospital to Olympic Heritage Behavioral Health, DSHS plans to add a minimum of 72 beds by fiscal year 2024’s end, reducing the strain on our forensic bed waitlist. The Governor’s budget further allocates funds for reopening wards at Western and Eastern State Hospitals, providing an additional 38 forensic beds by January 2024.

But the investment goes beyond beds. With a dedicated budget of $45 million in bonds, Olympic Heritage Behavioral Health will undergo capital improvements to reinforce safety measures, enhance nursing stations, upgrade HVAC units, and expand activity areas. This initiative reflects our commitment to improving the quality and accessibility of behavioral health services, fostering a more inclusive and resilient community.

Trueblood Settlement and Initiatives

The Governor’s budget, supported by our legislative efforts, allocates funds to expand vital behavioral health services. This includes increased rates for teams assisting individuals transitioning from institutional to community settings, as well as support for community teams aiding those with severe behavioral health disorders.

Furthermore, the budget extends the impactful diversion programs initiated in 2018 as a result of the Trueblood settlement agreement contempt fines. This initiative offers a comprehensive range of services, such as assessments, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, case management, employment support, and social services. By doing so, it aims to reduce recidivism and enhance the lives of class members, illustrating our commitment to addressing the complex needs of individuals in our community.

In addition, the budget earmarks funds for the establishment of crisis stabilization beds in the Thurston or Mason County region as part of Phase 3 of the Trueblood Settlement Agreement. This innovative, community-based approach ensures prompt attention and support in a respectful environment for individuals experiencing mental health crises or acute behavioral health problems. These beds will serve as a vital alternative to incarceration, emergency room settings, or evaluation and treatment center services.

An Update on Some of My Bills:

Empowering Our Youth

Last year, I introduced House Bill 1692 to amplify the voices of our youth in the legislative process. Supported by the Governor, this bill focuses on creating student advisory groups to thoroughly examine issues crucial to the younger generation.

House Bill 1692 establishes a Legislative District Student Council, composed of high school students, offering nonpartisan advice on matters affecting youth and education. Simultaneously, a Youth Civic Engagement Caucus is formed at the middle school level, providing invaluable insights into issues pertinent to younger students.

This bill aims to bridge the gap, ensuring the inclusion of student perspectives in legislative decisions that significantly impact their lives. By creating avenues for direct input and engagement, we empower our youth to actively participate in shaping the policies that shape their future.

House Bill 1692 has passed in the House! Next stop: the Senate!

13 Year Free Guarantee


The aspiration for higher education is a dream for many, and for some, one that remains financially out of reach.

This year, I’ve introduced the ‘13 Year Free Guarantee’ bill (House Bill 2309) to ensure a tuition-free year at a regional community or technical colleges for nearby graduates of a GED or high school diploma. Student recipients would have up to two academic years to take advantage to earn up to 45 credits.

The 13 Year Free Guarantee would ensure this promise to every Washington student, regardless of income-level, and only requires high school graduates fill out the WASFA or FAFSA form.

My aim is to enhance accessibility to higher education for all: the 13 Year Free positively impacts individuals throughout Washington, especially benefiting communities of color, working parents, and those working to leverage their talents and break the cycle of generational poverty. The 13 Year Free is a first step within a large push for statewide free college. In the meantime, regional technical institutes or community colleges will potentially see major enrollment boosts and provide a much-needed boost to our workforce.


This table provides income thresholds for families to qualify for financial aid through the Washington College Grant (WCG) and College Bound Scholarship (CBS) programs in the 2023-2024 academic year. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Family Size Matters: The larger the family, the higher the income threshold for eligibility. This makes sense since larger families typically have higher expenses.
  • Different Aid Levels: The table shows different income thresholds for varying levels of financial aid:
  • 65% of the maximum award for the College Bound Scholarship
  • 70% of the maximum award for the Washington College Grant (WCG)
  • 75% of the maximum award for the WCG
  • 100% of the maximum award for the WCG
  • Gradual Increase: As family size increases, the income threshold also increases. This acknowledges that larger families might require more financial assistance.
  • Maximum Income Threshold: For the WCG, there’s a maximum income threshold. Families earning below this threshold qualify for the full maximum award.
  • Targeted Support: The table ensures that families with lower incomes receive a higher percentage of financial aid.

In essence, this table helps families understand if they qualify for financial aid and at what level based on their income and family size. It aims to make college more accessible and affordable for those who might otherwise struggle to pay for it.

While House Bill 2309 did not advance through the Appropriations Committee this year, it sparked valuable discussions regarding opportunities for students within higher education in our state.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read!


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Rep. Steve Bergquist