Bill boosting access to community-based behavioral health treatment signed into law

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Yesterday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law legislation to improve access to community-based treatment for people with serious behavioral health issues and make it easier for families to get their loved ones care when they need it, without hospitalization.

The bill, HB 1773, was introduced by Rep. Jamila Taylor, D-Federal Way. It streamlines the process for assisted outpatient treatment, or AOT, and expands who can receive this care. AOT is court-ordered treatment in the community, instead of an inpatient setting.

“We can’t wait until people hit rock bottom and need to be hospitalized before we provide them with treatment,” Taylor said. “As we shift away from over-relying on law enforcement officers and hospital emergency room staff to respond to a behavioral health crisis, we need to do more to invest in supports and resources. AOT expands the tools available to address one of the most pressing challenges in our communities.”

HB 1773 passed the Legislature with bipartisan support. The companion bill, SB 5645, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond.

“We heard testimony from families who said they believe assisted outpatient treatment was the missing ingredient that may have saved their loved ones’ lives,” said Dhingra. “AOT is an effective way to get people on the path to recovery.”

Rep. Lauren Davis, D-Shoreline, is also a co-sponsor of the legislation.

“In other states, assisted outpatient treatment has proven to be an incredibly successful model to effectively intervene and support individuals with mental health and substance use challenges on their road to recovery,” Davis said. “Though AOT has been on the books in Washington state for several years, it has been wildly underutilized. HB 1773 is a mammoth step forward in improving accessibility of this lifesaving intervention for our neighbors who are suffering profoundly and desperately in need of behavioral health care.”