Washington Senate staffer discusses impact of behavioral health bills


Shane Ersland


Lawmakers passed several bills that will have significant impacts on behavioral health during Washington’s recently wrapped legislative session. A Senate staffer provided details about how each will impact residents and their health care Tuesday.


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Kevin Black discussed the bills during a meeting hosted by Washington Legislative and Policy Advocates. Black is a staffer for Senate Committee Services, which provides non-partisan research and policy analysis in the Senate, and has focused on behavioral health policy bills since 2007. He discussed the bills that passed in the legislature after being reviewed by the Senate’s Behavioral Health Subcommittee.

House Bill 1761 allows nurses to dispense opioid overdose reversal medications in emergency departments.

“It’s a requirement for emergency rooms to provide Narcan to save lives in cases of overdoses,” Black said. “The amendment says an emergency room nurse, rather than just a doctor, can provide the Narcan.”

House Bill 1286 adopted a psychology interjurisdictional compact. It will allow patients to continue receiving health care services from in-state physicians should they leave Washington, Black said. 

“Someone can continue their care via telepsychology, even if they leave the state,” he said.

House Bill 1074 pertains to overdoses and suicide fatality reviews. It will allow health departments to establish multidisciplinary overdose, withdrawal, and suicide fatality review teams, Black said.

House Bill 1773 assists with outpatient treatment for people with behavioral health disorders. It aims to increase the uptake in usage of assisted outpatient treatment services, and increase the duration of an assisted outpatient treatment order, Black said.

House Bill 1800 increases access to behavioral health services for minors. It will require the Washington State Health Care Authority to design and implement a parent portal to connect families with information and services related to behavioral health for minors, Black said.

House Bill 1890 affects the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Work Group. It will direct the group to convene an advisory group to develop a strategic plan related to access to behavioral health services for families with children, Black said.

“They will be doing some sort of global mapping, and planning about how health services are delivered,” he said.

Senate Bill 5644 is geared toward providing quality behavioral health co-response services. It is an effort to establish additional training, development, and standardization in the field. It will allow University of Washington officials to work with stakeholders to develop training programs, Black said.

“The University of Washington will start an annual conference next year to talk [with stakeholders] about what’s working in their communities,” he said. “That will be interesting to watch.”

Senate Bill 5664 affects forensic competency restoration programs. 

“It’s mostly small changes related to outpatient competency restoration programs,” Black said. “There will be changes made to how that’s handled if someone needs to transfer to inpatient.”

Senate Bill 5736 addresses partial hospitalizations and intensive outpatient treatment services for minors. 

“This is sort of an intermediate program,” Black said. “It [will be] part of the Medicaid program for people under 21. It adds coverage for partial hospitalizations, and intensive outpatient services for people under 21 to the Medicaid State Plan by Jan. 1, 2024. It is subject to approval by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.”