Promoting pro-recovery policy is central to our mission. We believe that people with lived experience of behavioral health challenges and triumphs should be heard at every table where decisions are being made. Recovery is possible, and even probable, if we build a system that centers the needs of people with behavioral health issues.

We advance public policy that supports recovery in several ways:

The Re-Imagine Recovery Summit

Our annual Re-imagine Recovery Summit convenes individuals, families, and treatment providers within the recovery community to discuss the most pressing needs in behavioral health. The summit is an opportunity to create community connections and energize stakeholders for the year ahead.

Click here to learn more or get involved.

Recovery Advocacy Day (RAD)

Recovery Advocacy Day (RAD) is the WRA’s annual citizen action event, where we bring together hundreds of people in the recovery community from across the state to engage their lawmakers in conversations about legislative changes that would improve our behavioral health system.

Click here to learn more or get involved.

Legislative Advocacy & Education

Our Public Policy Committee helps translate feedback from our community into a set of legislative priorities for the WRA and our community advocates to champion in Olympia. We do this throughout the year at Recovery Advocacy Day, The Re-Imagine Recovery Summit, and other engagements.

Our 2021 Legislative Advocacy Priorities: We Put Recovery First!

Thanks to your collective experience, knowledge, and ideas, we have identified four core policy priorities for legislative advocacy during the 2021 session that will help members of our community start their recovery journey, stay in recovery, and live their most fulfilling lives.

#1: Creating Dedicated New Revenue for Behavioral Health Services

We have seen the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on behavioral health across the state, and the country. We cannot afford to wait to add resources to our behavioral health system — the emergency is now, and it’s ongoing. We propose combining several different funding sources of NEW state revenue, totaling $66M/year, into one bill and dedicating all of it to behavioral health services: 

  • Close pharmaceutical warehouse distributor tax preference: this is the bill we worked on last year (HB 2734) to close a tax preference that is no longer needed and dedicate the funding to recovery support services. 
  • Levy an opioid impact fee, which is a per milligram fee charged to opioid manufacturers (e.g. Purdue Pharma) who sell opioids within WA’s borders. This bill was run last year as HB 2438 and did not pass.
  • Double liquor license fees, which have not been increased in 30-40 years, depending on the fee. Restaurants will be exempt from these increases.

All of this revenue would be earmarked for behavioral health services that are not currently funded, such as recovery housing, recovery coaching, outreach and engagement services for people experiencing homelessness or in custody of the criminal-legal system, and expanded mobile crisis services.

All of this revenue would be earmarked for behavioral health services that are not currently funded, such as recovery housing, recovery coaching, outreach and engagement services for people experiencing homelessness or in custody of the criminal-legal system, and expanded mobile crisis services.

#2: Building Pathways to Recovery: HB 1499

When someone is facing a behavioral health disorder, we believe the appropriate intervention is help, not handcuffs. Substance use disorder is one of the only health conditions where you can be arrested merely for displaying the symptoms — for example, having drugs on your person or actively using drugs. At the same time, a key symptom for diagnosis of a substance use disorder is continued use despite negative consequences, which means traumatic repercussions such as jail generally don’t change the behavior.

This bill creates pathways to recovery by:

  • Meeting the person where they are: Removing drug possession from the criminal code and replacing it with rapid access to person-centered behavioral health services.
  • Reducing the risk of COVID spread by reducing the number of people in group settings such as jails.
  • Spending our resources on effective treatment and support services that create change instead of expensive criminal-legal proceedings that often add to behavioral health challenges.

Crimes committed because of a person’s substance use disorder such a drug dealing, burglary, and other property crimes would continue to be prosecuted. But in cases where the only victim is the drug user themselves, we can lead with a different response that treats behavioral health conditions like the health conditions they are: with healthcare first.

#3: Preventing Overdose Deaths: SB5195

We’ve made strides to address the epidemic of opioid overdoses here in Washington, but we know we can do more. This bill seeks to increase immediate access to naloxone, a life-saving overdose reversal drug, to decrease the risk of long-term health effects of overdose and overdose fatalities. 

This bill would ensure providers prescribe and immediately provide naloxone, in addition to referral services from a substance use disorder peer specialist to people presenting at an emergency department for opioid overdose.

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

If you’ve ever called 911 for a behavioral health emergency, you know there are only two choices: police, or fire. We’re re-imagining a system where mobile crisis response for behavioral health emergencies is available to everyone when you call a 3-digit emergency number.

In July 2022 the FCC will implement the new 3-digit mental health emergency hotline, 988. That means right now in 2021 is our chance to create a new behavioral health crisis response. We’re proposing a system where calls are answered by highly trained crisis workers and dispatched by 988 for calls related to people in mental health distress, people under the influence, individuals experiencing homelessness, and other circumstances that require care but not the law.

There’s broad support among law enforcement officers for this change. They are frequently called upon to respond to behavioral health crises without the training, background, or service resources to successfully get people the help they need in that moment of crisis. They respond because they have to — there is no one else.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do things differently. We’re advocating for re-imagining our crisis response system using 988 as a mechanism for mobile crisis responders. That includes funding crisis response adequately through a telecom fee similar to how we fund our current 911 services. A response system that centers the needs of people in crisis is a system that will save lives.

Are you fired up about making change in our behavioral health system? Join us on February 11th for Recovery Advocacy Day!

We’re always looking at what comes next, but we know it’s important to celebrate our accomplishments, too. We are proud of our advocates for helping drive these policy advocacy wins:

2016: Lead architect of and advocacy org behind Ricky’s Law to create a crisis treatment system for youth and adults with life-threatening addiction, one of the largest single investments in addiction treatment in state history

2017: Successfully advocated for $26 million in state funding to extend inpatient substance use disorder treatment stays beyond 15 days for clients receiving Medicaid.

2018: Helped pass HB 1524, to allow Criminal Justice Treatment Account funds to be used to fund recovery support services, including housing

2019: Lead architects of and advocacy org behind two major pieces of legislation, HB 1528 and HB 1907. HB 1528 massively expands the quality and quantity of recovery housing in WA. This is critical for people discharging from treatment and correctional settings, who are frequently released to homelessness. The WRA also secured $1 million of operating budget funds for recovery housing vouchers and $1 million in capital budget funds for recovery housing facility improvements. HB 1907 tears down two major barriers to people in recovery entering the behavioral health workforce as certified peer counselors–(1) it removes employment prohibitions for crimes common among people with a history of addiction and (2) it disallows mandatory enrollment in a punitive and discriminatory addiction monitoring program for people who are already in long-term recovery.

2020: Lead architects and advocacy org behind HB 2642. The WRA took on the insurance lobby and was able to secure unanimous passage of this legislation to allow same day access to detox and inpatient addiction treatment. The bill prohibits both commercial and Medicaid health carriers from requiring burdensome pre-authorization requirements for inpatient care, which delay treatment by weeks or months. The bill recognizes that if we fail to provide people treatment when they’re ready for help, we may never have a second chance and that when we do provide people with access to quality care in their window of willingness, people recover.