Advancing Behavioral Health Initiatives: A Glimpse into Our Committee’s Work and Beyond

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This has been a difficult few weeks after the terrorist attack by Hamas in Israel that killed 1,400 people, with more than 200 women, children and elderly held hostage! The flying of the Israeli flag alongside the US and Washington State flags at half-mast at the State Capitol was heartwarming. I hope that this symbol of unity with Israel radiates out to the Jewish community and beyond. With the escalating conflict, I know we pray for the safety of all civilians in Israel and Gaza. More locally, I want to be clear that antisemitism and Islamophobia have no place in our communities, and yet we’ve seen a rise. As a legislature, just this year we started a grant program to increase security for nonprofit organizations—including religious nonprofits facing security threats. I hope you will join me in working toward greater community cohesion here in Washington.

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Photo from KUOW 

Behavioral Health Leadership

I’m excited to share that I’ve been selected as the co-Chair of the Washington State Joint Legislative and Executive Committee on Behavioral Health. In my capacity as co-Chair, I will lead the development of a five-year strategic plan on behavioral health for the state, from prevention to intervention and treatment. My passion for children’s mental health in particular drives me to work tirelessly on a coordinated approach to address behavioral health issues comprehensively. I’m honored by this appointment and look forward to keeping you updated on our committee’s progress.

Keeping Busy during the Interim

During the interim between legislative sessions, I seek to make the most of this time to focus on the implementation of the policies we pass and investments we make, as well as learn more about what other states are doing in various policy areas, conduct site visits, and speak directly with people effected and those “doing the work.” In addition, it is a great time to work with our federal partners to advance key policies and investments nationally.

Here are a few of the things I’ve been up to in this regard:

A Collaborative Conversation on Childcare

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of joining U.S. Senator Patty Murray for a roundtable discussion about childcare funding and the response to the expiration of federal childcare stabilization funding.

This discussion couldn’t have come at a more critical time. Childcare providers across the country are grappling with the expiration of federal COVID pandemic funding, a lifeline that helped keep childcare open and accessible to families.

Ongoing federal investment is crucial to ensure the childcare industry thrives. Our dedication to this cause remains unwavering, especially as we approach the legislative session and federal budget deadlines. We’re committed to treating childcare like an essential service, safeguarding the well-being of Washington families and children and supporting businesses and our economy that rely on childcare.

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to Senator Murray, who continues to be a driving force in the fight for accessible and affordable childcare. Her dedication to this issue is unwavering, and I consider her our secret weapon in making ongoing federal investment a reality.


Exploring Youth Behavioral Health Services in Portland

Earlier this month, I led a group of 20 legislators, staff members, advocates, and our DSHS Secretary Jilma Meneses on a visit to behavioral health service sites in Portland, OR.

During this trip, we visited two facilities: Trillium Family Services and Madrona Recovery. Trillium stands out for its commitment to providing extended, intensive mental health treatment, while Madrona specializes in serving youth grappling with a dual diagnosis of substance use disorder and mental health issues.

Our conversations during this journey were candid and eye-opening. We delved into the differences in state laws, the financial hurdles of providing care to high-acuity youth, and the innovative approaches these facilities employ to inspire hope and drive positive change.

It’s a sobering fact that Washington currently has zero treatment beds for children with substance use disorder (SUD) who are on Medicaid. This situation reflects the burgeoning demand for mental health services, making clear the pressing need for accessible in-state care. Families often face the challenge of finding mental health and SUD treatment, and when they do, it frequently means seeking care out of state, which can be both logistically challenging and financially burdensome.

The behavioral health crisis is an issue that looms large across our nation. The urgency of the matter is evident: a collective effort and an array of innovative solutions are needed to safeguard the well-being of our children. The journey continues, and so does our unwavering commitment to change.


Green Hill School and Our Commitment to Youth Rehabilitation

As part of our interim work, the Human Services, Youth, and Early Learning Committee traveled to Chehalis to gain deeper insights into the Green Hill juvenile rehabilitation institution, which has recently shifted to serving youth 18-25 years of age and offering secondary education. Four young men who participate in an innovative program called “Capital Classroom,” which teaches the power of advocacy, escorted us around the facility, showcasing their transformation and leadership development.

When Green Hill School first opened its doors to secondary education services just a few years ago (there had been a state law preventing state dollars from providing these services!), it began with just eight young individuals enrolled. Today, there are 56 students! The diverse programs they offer, from AA’s and BA’s to barbershop to carpentry and automotive, reflect a commitment to providing essential educational opportunities and career pathways.

Our visit to Green Hill aimed not only to witness progress but to gain a profound understanding of these youths’ experiences. I firmly believe in the effectiveness of a rehabilitative approach to reduce recidivism, to improve and heal youths’ lives, and to ensure an effective reintegration of these individuals into our communities.


Thank you so much for reading and “coming along” with me on some of the journeys I took this fall!

Warm regards,

Senn Sig

Rep. Tana Senn