Public Policy

Public Policy 2020-01-15T00:24:25+00:00
Our 2020 Advocacy Agenda: We Put Recovery First!
At our 2019 Recovery Summit, recovery advocates came together to dig into solving our most pressing behavioral health system challenges in Washington. Thanks to your collective experience, knowledge, and ideas, we identified four core policy priorities for legislative advocacy during the 2020 session that will help members of our community start their recovery journey, stay in recovery, and live their most fulfilling lives.

#1: End the Opioid Distributors Tax Break

In Washington State, “pharmaceutical distributors” get a special ~$20 million / year discount on their taxes, increasing their profits while the state loses that much each year in potential behavioral health funding. In 2020, the WRA’s top priority will be ending this tax break and dedicating that ~$20 million per year to non-Medicaid treatment and recovery support services, such as recovery housing, outreach and engagement, and recovery coaching.

#2: The Clean Slate Act

The WRA is proud to have partnered on the passage of the WA State New Hope Act in 2019. The Clean Slate Act will make the process of “vacating” (deleting from public background check records) convictions in the New Hope Act automatic, eliminating the need to hire an attorney and submit burdensome paperwork. This will improve access to housing, employment, and other opportunities for thousands of members of our recovery community.

#3: Behavioral Health Workforce Stabilization

Recruiting and retaining highly qualified behavioral health workers is an ongoing challenge that makes treatment services less effective and accessible. The WRA is advocating for additional funds to increase salaries to stabilize the behavioral health workforce in our state. This will help people in recovery maintain long-term, trusting relationships with well-trained staff as they pursue their recovery journey.

#4: Inpatient Treatment Accessibility

Currently, inpatient behavioral health treatment providers require something called insurance pre-authorization–proof that a patient’s insurance covers services at a location– before that patient can receive care. As a result, patients in need of substance use and mental health treatment are often turned away when they seek help because of confusing insurance requirements. The WRA supports legislation to eliminate the preauthorization requirement so that people seeking treatment get fully-covered care when they need it regardless of obscure insurance networks and regulations.

State Legislative Advocacy: History

The Washington Recovery Alliance formed as a response to the lack of an organized voice advocating for recovery issues in Washington state. We held the state’s inaugural Recovery Advocacy Day in 2016 and have returned each year. In 2018, we had 117 recovery advocates participate! The WRA’s 2018 advocacy efforts were focused on:

  • Expanding access to recovery support services
    • Allocating Medicaid funding for substance use disorder peer/recovery coach services
    • Passing HB 1524 to allow Criminal Justice Treatment Account funds to be used for recovery support services
    • Allowing peer-run agencies to bill Medicaid
  • Increasing Medicaid rates for behavioral health
  • Sentencing reform for drug possession charges

A more detailed description of our advocacy priorities is available here: WRA 2018 State Legislative Priorities.

Past State Legislative Advocacy Efforts

2017: In partnership with other organizations, the WRA successfully advocated for $26 million in state funding to extend inpatient substance use disorder treatment stays beyond 15 days for clients receiving Medicaid.

2016: The WRA initiated the state’s inaugural Recovery Advocacy Day on January 26, 2016.  In that first year, the WRA led advocacy efforts for the successful passage of Ricky’s Law, landmark legislation which created a crisis treatment system for youth and adults with life-threatening addiction. Information for friends and family about how to use Ricky’s Law is available here.

Bringing Recovery to the Table

The WRA and our regional recovery coalitions are working to embed recovery advocates on state, regional, and local behavioral health policy and planning groups. At present, we have successfully placed advocates on five state-level groups and four local/regional groups. As one of our experienced advocates, Shereese Rhodes says: “If you don’t have a seat at the table, pull up a chair!”