OLYMPIA – Rep. Tarra Simmons (D-East Bremerton) was named the 2021 Legislator of the Year by the Washington branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Each year NAMI Washington honors a state lawmaker whose work advances mental health in Washington in a meaningful and impactful way. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization.
“NAMI Washington is delighted to honor Rep. Simmons as our 2021 Legislator of the Year. We thank her for her leadership and work on the passage of important pieces of legislation that will improve the lives of people impacted by mental illness such as establishing a new statewide office for behavioral health advocacy, restoring voting rights, and expanding the healthcare workforce. We are grateful for the tremendous impact she has made and are looking forward to what comes next,” said Lauren Simonds, Executive Director for NAMI Washington.
Specifically, Rep. Simmons is being honored for her sponsorship of HB 1086, which created a state office of behavioral health consumer advocacy. A NAMI priority, this bill creates a state office to provide behavioral health consumer advocacy services across the state.
Rep. Simmons was also the prime sponsor of HB 1411, which will expand the healthcare and behavioral healthcare workforce by creating a process to allow formerly incarcerated individuals to work in this field. Previously certain crimes resulted in an automatic disqualification from positions with unsupervised access to children, vulnerable adults, or individuals with mental illness or developmental disabilities.
Additionally, Rep. Simmons was the prime sponsor of HB 1078, which automatically restores voting rights to a person once they are released from Department of Corrections custody. This major piece of voting rights legislation will increase democratic participation and give formerly incarcerated individuals a stake in the community they return to. Given the disproportionate impact of incarceration on people with mental and behavioral health conditions, NAMI was very supportive of this bill.
“Washington must do much more to help those in our community with mental or behavioral health issues,” said Simmons. “I am proud of the work we did this year to increase protection for those accessing behavioral health services and to increase the workforce to provide behavioral healthcare. NAMI has long been a leader in improving our state’s behavioral health system and I look forward to working with them again as we enter a new legislative session.”
Simmons will receive the award virtually on Monday, December 13 at 6:30 PM. You can register for NAMI WA’s Virtual Award Ceremony here.