House passes Senn legislation on children’s mental health

OLYMPIA—Earlier this week, the House of Representatives passed legislation to improve access to mental health services for children and youth on a strong, bipartisan vote of 84-14.

House Bill 2779, sponsored by long-time champion of children’s mental health, Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, would extend the Children’s Mental Health Work Group through 2020. The work group, co-chaired by Senn, was established in 2016 to help assess and address the mental health needs of Washington’s children.

The bill also includes some system-based fixes to help build provider capacity and improve mental health in schools and early learning.

“The work group has been critical in identifying where there are barriers to services and opportunities for better mental health access for children,” said Senn. “Continuing that work will be critical in reaching children and their families early on, improving not only the mental health outcomes of the child, but the mental health picture for our state.”

Last session, the Legislature passed legislation including work group recommendations, such as providing maternal and youth depression screening, facilitating telemedicine, and coordinating mental health services in schools.

House Bill 2779 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.