State House budgets add money for mental health

February 26, 2014 

All of the Legislature's spending plans to date put new money into mental health programs, but the House suggests roughly doubling what the Senate proposed two days earlier.

Both House and Senate would pay to settle a lawsuit over children's mental health. Both would cover overtime costs at Western and Eastern state hospitals while also making upgrades at the hospitals.

And both would add some bed space at a time of severe shortages of space. But the House plan would do more on that front.

A bipartisan House construction proposal calls for building the space needed for 48 beds, split between King County; Thurston and Mason counties; and seven Eastern Washington counties. Each of those three regions would get money for either one 16-bed free-standing treatment facility or space at local hospitals.

House Democrats included money in their budget to operate those facilities.

The Senate's bipartisan plan provides money to run 16 beds somewhere in the state this year, and 16 more in the long run.

Besides beds, the House plans would issue construction money in the form of competitive grants for facilities around the state, while also earmarking some money for particular outpatient services in designated places.

Pierce County would be partially funded for a program that can send teams to patients' homes around the clock.

"Mental health is pretty fundamental," said Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish."You solve the problems early, you give people treatment early, you save a lot of money down the road."

Some of the money the House wants is tied to a proposal it has passed that would give people a new avenue to have their family members detained for psychiatric treatment. The proposal is being pushed by family members of a mentally ill man killed by police in Seattle and could lead to more involuntary commitments, requiring more bed space and treatment programs.

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