Washington State House Democrats


Bill to improve children’s mental health services is signed into law

Legislative News from Representative Ruth Kagi (D-Seattle)

April 7, 2016

OLYMPIA – Governor Inslee has signed House Bill 2439 to address the delivery of mental health services to children and youth that passed the legislature with strong bi-partisan support. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Kagi (D-Seattle), establishes a Children’s Mental Health Work Group and funds a pilot program for delivering mental health services to children and families in rural areas.

Research shows that more than half of adult mental health problems begin before the age of 14. Children who get early intervention services are less likely to drop out of school or experience serious problems with drugs, alcohol, and mental illness as adults.

“While much of our focus in the legislature has been on addressing the significant problems in the adult mental health system, we must also address the needs of children with behavioral health challenges to reduce future demand for treatment,” said Rep. Kagi. “Too many children and their families are unable to get help when problems first appear.”

The Work Group will identify barriers to accessing mental health services for children and families and recommend to the legislature changes that can increase access to statewide mental health services for children.

Some of the specific ideas that the workgroup will tackle include:

  • Resolving confusion and gaps in insurance coverage
  • Increasing the number of professionals who are specifically qualified to provide children’s mental health services
  • Analyzing the supports provided for child care providers in order to reduce expulsions from child care and preschool which currently are three times higher than the rate in K-12.

In addition, HB 2439 will implement suicide prevention training for support staff in schools.

“All children deserve a strong developmental foundation. For some children this will require extra support and services,” said Kagi. “I am looking forward to working with stakeholders to find ways we can better serve children with behavioral health challenges and better support their families, teachers and caregivers.”