Bipartisan budget agreement addresses mental health care and treatment

With the Washington State Legislature completing work on an update to the state’s two-year budget on Tuesday, Sen. Andy Hill was pleased that the sustainable plan respects the state’s four-year balanced budget requirement and makes significant improvements in mental health treatment and care at Western State Hospital.

“The final bipartisan plan is a true supplemental budget that addresses our state’s needs and respects taxpayers,” said Hill, of Redmond, who serves as chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and chief budget writer in the Senate. “By being prudent when updating the next year of state government spending, we will be in a better position come 2017 to continue making significant improvements in our education system.”

The 2016 supplemental budget modestly increases state spending by $190 million and addresses mental health treatment and care, maintains healthy reserves in case of future emergencies and increases protections for people with developmental disabilities without raising taxes.

Legislation Hill sponsored to improve care and treatment at Western State Hospital received funding in the supplemental budget as well.

“Last year we made historic investments in our mental health system, but returned to session in January to find much of our work stalled due to problems at Western State Hospital,” said Hill. “By making key reforms to operations we can help improve patient outcomes and increase safety for the staff working to provide this essential care to some of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Lawmakers approved the supplemental budget and Hill’s mental health improvements by broad bipartisan margins on the final day of a special legislative session.