Inslee works to improve Washington’s behavioral health system

The governor was in Central and Northwest Washington this week to tour patient-centered facilities.

Gov. Jay Inslee traveled to Wenatchee and Everett this week to promote his five-year plan to create small, community-based behavioral health facilities that ensure that people are treated near their family and friends.

Inslee is working with legislators to change Washington's behavioral health system. Washington currently has two large state hospitals, Western State and Eastern State, and under Inslee’s plan they will continue focusing on serving forensic — or court-ordered — and hard-to-place civil commitment patients. Other civil commitment patients will be served in new, 16-bed regional hospitals run by the state and other community-based care facilities.

In Wenatchee the governor visited Parkside, a new behavioral health treatment facility. Parkside will treat clients throughout the North Central Accountable Community of Health Region in Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties. Inslee then toured Medical Unit 1, the behavioral unit at Central Washington Hospital.

Inslee visits Medical Unit 1 at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee, October 12, 2018 (Office of the Governor photo)

MU1 has successfully increased collaboration between community partners, which ultimately provides better outcomes for patients. The partnership includes Confluence Health, Catholic Charities, additional local behavioral health and substance abuse providers, law enforcement, jail officials, county prosecutors, local judges and public defenders.

In Everett, the governor spoke to family members and individuals with lived experience in navigating the behavioral health system. Inslee then visited Sunrise, a new 16-bed group home for those stable enough to be released from state hospitals, but who still need round-the-clock care. The governor heard from providers and staff ahead of patients being admitted later this fall.

Inslee hears from family members, patients and providers impacted by the current behavioral health system in Everett, October 16, 2018 (Office of the Governor photo)

“In Wenatchee and Everett, I saw dedicated professional staff who want the very best for these patients. Medical professionals, law enforcement and local elected officials and community leaders recognize that patients do better when they are able to stay in their own community, close to family and friends,” Inslee said.

Inslee visited Parkside, a behavioral health facility in Wenatchee, October 12, 2018 (Office of the Governor photo)

“I believe in transitioning our civil population to state run facilities as much as possible is the best option. Ensuring that we have quality, stability and continuity of care will ensure our success,” Inslee continued.

Earlier this year, Inslee signed a bill to overhaul the oversight of behavioral health programs in Washington and integrate those programs with other health care services. Part of that vision includes increasing the number of behavioral health resources available throughout the state, so that patients can receive treatment in their own communities.

Patient support tools at Sunrise, a behavioral health facility in Everett (Office of the Governor photo)

The governor’s 2019–2021 budget proposal will include the policy changes and funding needed to make the transition.

Inslee and his staff will work closely with legislators, state agencies, patient advocates, labor and others in the coming months to ensure the plan adequately takes into account the funding and timing to coordinate workforce transition and facility siting and construction.