House advances bills to repair mental health system

 Legislative Support ServicesOLYMPIA – In a momentous day on the House floor, members passed four bills that aim to fix holes in our mental health system: HB 1448, HB 1450, HB 1713 and SB 5889 (companion to HB 2060).

“Our current system is broken,” said Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma. “No one policy will fix it. We need to improve every aspect of mental health – from primary care, to outpatient treatment, to crisis management. The strides we’ve made today are helping building a mental health system that works for all.”

HB 1448, Sheena’s Law, is named after Sheena Henderson who was murdered by her husband Chris as he suffered from severe mental health issues. “This bill will give law enforcement officers another tool in their toolbox in how they deal with individuals suffering from a mental health incident,” said Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, prime sponsor of the bill. “Having this option could mean the difference between another senseless tragedy and getting someone the care they need.”

HB 1450, sponsored by Rep. Jinkins, gives more options for outpatient treatment for people with mental health issues. It provides a reasonable balance, getting people treatment earlier and will result in fewer mental health and forensic commitments. It is less restrictive, less expensive, and more humane than involuntary treatment.

“Much more needs to be done to fix how we care for those who are suffering from mental health and chemical dependency problems,” said Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, prime sponsor of HB 1713. “This legislation is a step forward for integrating our systems to get people the care they need.”

On the passage of SB 5889, Rep. Jinkins said, “The state has a constitutional obligation to ensure everyone receives a speedy trial. Those who suffer from mental health problems are no different. This bill will ensure that even those with mental health issues will receive timely assessment and treatment in our criminal justice system.”