The 2021 legislative session has officially wrapped, and our legislators made some big moves and investments in addressing issues in recovery and behavioral health.

Thanks to advocates like you, we had some incredible pro-recovery policy wins. Here’s where the WRA 2021 legislative priorities ended up.

#1: Creating Dedicated New Revenue for Behavioral Health Services

  • See $ section from 5476’s contents below — large investment in recovery and BH services!

#2: Building Pathways to Recovery: HB 1499

  • Bill itself essentially irrelevant upon WA State Supreme Court’s 2/25/21 State V Blake decision
  • Pieces of this bill were absorbed and applied within state’s response: SB 5476
    • Late-session, line-by-line deliberation by both House and Senate — successful passage and is delivered to Gov for signature
    • includes a total of $88 million in new spending for expanding access to treatment and recovery support services
    • Creates a “Recovery Navigator” position, who works with individuals in recovery in a focused case management role, providing SUD assessment, connections to recovery support services like recovery coaching, housing, etc.
    • Temporary re-criminalization of drug possession:
      • Statewide, knowing possession of a substance will be seen as a simple misdemeanor
      • Law enforcement is required to engage in diversion for first 2 offenses, and is not required but encouraged to do so if 3+ offenses
      • Expert advisory committee will study issue & effects & make recommendations to legislature in 2023
    • Starting July 2022, law enforcement is required to complete training re: interactions with individuals with SUD and mental health conditions — includes sections on how to identify, how to de-escalate, principles of and multiple pathways to recovery, & alternatives to lethal force

#3: Preventing Overdose Deaths: SB5195

  • Successfully passed through House & Senate with strong bipartisan support, delivered to Governor Inslee for signature.
  • Language from bill — “Effective January 1, 2022, a hospital must provide a patient who presents to an emergency department with symptoms of an opioid overdose, OUD, or other adverse event related to opioid use with opioid overdose reversal medication (like naloxone) upon discharge. The hospital must also provide information and resources about meds for OUD and harm reduction strategies.”
  • Meds and resources to prevent OD’s & support recovery – yes and yes!

#4: Re-imagining Our Crisis Response System for Behavioral Health Emergencies: HB 1477

  • Late-session deliberation with a conference committee made up of both House & Senate lawmakers led to successful passage of this bill, delivered to Governor Inslee for signature
  • Creates crisis call-center hubs connected to the 988 line
  • Language from bill — “[will] Make additional investments to enhance the crisis response system, including the expansion of crisis teams, to be known as mobile rapid response crisis teams, and deployment of a wide array of crisis stabilization services, such as 23-hour crisis stabilization units based on the living room model, crisis stabilization centers, short-term respite facilities, peer-run respite centers, and same-day walk-in behavioral health services. The overall crisis system shall contain components that operate like hospital emergency departments that accept all walk-ins and ambulance, fire, and police drop-offs. Certified peer counselors as well as peers in other roles providing support must be incorporated within the crisis system and along the continuum of crisis care.”

Creating a Peer Credential: HB1349

HB 1349, which seeks to create a peer credential, has to go through a sunrise review before it can move further. All new licensed professions are required to undergo this process, and we anticipate returning to this priority in 2022.

Phew, what a legislative session! We really want to keep our momentum going, and we’re doing just that with our Re-Imagine Recovery Summit on June 28th! Will you join us?

At the Summit we’ll have action tracks to discuss what’s next on some of our advocacy priorities, including the peer credential and criminal legal systems. Registration is $50, and we have a sliding scale available for folks who need it. We can’t be together in person just yet, but we’re excited to be together virtually and send everyone who registers by June 1st a little gift from the WRA.

Thanks for being part of the WRA, and we hope to see you online in June to strategize what comes next!