Simmons bills gain bipartisan support in state House

OLYMPIA – State Rep. Tarra Simmons saw two of her prime-sponsored bills pass out of the House of Representatives Monday (Mar. 1) with bipartisan majority votes. Both bills will now be vetted by the state Senate before potentially being signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.

HB 1086 creates the state Office of Behavioral Health Consumer Advocacy to set rules, standards, and procedures for behavioral health advocates throughout the state. This function has been handled in the past by 10 different regional ombuds.

“Decentralization is effective in many endeavors,” Simmons (D-23, East Bremerton) said, “but consistency is crucial in the administration and delivery of behavioral health services. Behavioral health problems that have surfaced during the pandemic have made this special kind of healthcare even more important than ever.”

Simmons introduced HB 1411, which also passed on Monday, to help eliminate the state’s current shortage of home care workers, especially in cases where one family member is fully qualified to be the paid caregiver for a relative but is automatically deemed ineligible because of a past criminal record.

“That automatic denial eliminates about one in three adults from one of the most thankless but most essential jobs there is,” she said. “Certainly, not every individual with a criminal record should be in a position of caring for a vulnerable person. But neither should everyone who doesn’t have a criminal record. There are other, more reliable ways of making that call, and my bill recognizes this.”

The fate of both bills now rests with the Senate. The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn for the year on April 25.

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