Washington lawmakers’ $69 billion budget includes nearly $2 billion for mental health initiatives


Shane Ersland


Washington lawmakers released their two-year operating budget last weekend, which provides nearly $2 billion for mental health initiatives.


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The $69 billion budget will provide funds for mental health support, emergency housing, and rental assistance over the next two years. It includes $211 million for community behavioral health capacity, which more than doubles last year’s allotment. It also includes the first funds ever designated for youth mental health facilities, with $18 million supporting increased capacity for youth care.

Inseparable, a national nonprofit that advocates for mental healthcare, expressed gratitude to Washington lawmakers for championing the groundbreaking allocations in a statement.

“Inseparable is thankful to the legislature for its critical operating budget for mental healthcare, including a new program to support students in rural schools with tele-mental health services,” Inseparable founder Bill Smith said. “Mental health challenges are on the rise, especially among children, and it is paramount that youth are able to get the support they need, when and where they need it.”

Some of the primary behavioral health initiatives in the budget include:

  • Nearly $410 million to increase behavioral health provider rates paid through Medicaid managed care organizations and behavioral health administrative service organizations by 15% effective on Jan. 1st, 2024. Funding for behavioral health fee-for-service provider rates paid for tribal members and others who opt out of managed care services in the Medicaid program will be increased by 22%.
  • More than $218 million for the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and the Health Care Authority (HCA) to continue implementation of the Trueblood v. DSHS settlement, which will fund forensic navigators, outpatient competency restoration, housing, crisis, diversion, and other community support services required under the settlement agreement.
  • More than $184 million to expand the Maple Lane campus for forensic patients, with the addition of the Baker and Chelan cottages.
  • More than $132 million for DSHS to operate the 48-bed residential treatment facility campus in Vancouver. The facility will provide services to civil conversion patients.
  • Nearly $101 million will fund a variety of efforts to improve crisis and residential treatment services for individuals with mental health and substance use disorders. This includes funding for treatment services at new crisis stabilization and residential treatment facilities that will be online as a result of investments in prior capital budgets.

Several budget items support DSHS’s long-term care and developmental disabilities initiatives as well, including:

  • A total of $759 million to provide a new labor rate for home care providers and increased administrative rates for home care agencies.
  • A total of $252 million for rate increases for various services, including assisted living, supported living, employment and community inclusion, specialty dementia care, enhanced services facilities, and case management services for Area Agencies on Aging.
  • A total of $142 million for rate adjustments for the base and specialty rates paid to skilled nursing facilities.
  • A total of $108 million for a variety of efforts to transition clients from acute care hospitals to community placements, including a pilot program for clients with high support needs, support for home and community-based service providers, transitional support, and incentive payments to providers for those transitioning out of acute care hospitals.

The budget includes several housing and homelessness initiatives directed by the Department of Commerce. This includes nearly $167 million for grants to support emergency housing, shelter capacity, and associated support services previously funded through temporary state and federal programs, including federal Emergency Solutions Grant funds provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The budget awaits Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature.