A bill by Rep. Jessica Bateman (D-Olympia) that restructures and improves the public health system to address staffing shortages has passed the House with a vote of 97 to 0.
Demand is outpacing supply for behavioral health care providers in Washington state, but Bateman’s House Bill 2247 offers a fix by making simple changes to accelerate workforce growth.
“Access to behavioral health support is vital to communities across Washington,” said Rep. Bateman. “We need to break down some of the barriers that prevent people from entering the workforce.”
One profession the state is particularly short staffed in is psychology, partly because there is no in-state associate licensing program. This means providers must leave to get licensed in another state.
“Crossing our fingers and hoping providers decide to return to the state to practice after getting licensed doesn’t solve our problem.” said Rep. Bateman. “Creating an in-state training and licensing program is a proactive way to grow our workforce.”
The bill will create an associate level license for psychologists, allowing them to get the training they need in state and boosting workforce retention.
Another provision allows associate providers to work while their full license applications are pending, getting professionals into the field quicker.
The prohibitive cost of getting a degree and credential is another issue the bill addresses. To encourage more people to enter the field a stipend of up to $1,600 would be available to qualifying individuals to offset education costs.
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.