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.

Legislative Priorities 2022 (PDF here)

Our most vulnerable communities in the state of Washington are experiencing behavioral health challenges that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, health disparities and social inequities. The WRA has come together to choose these legislative priorities and combat these challenges in order to build an equitable, effective, and accessible behavioral health system and make recovery a reality. Our legislative priorities are:

Close the Tax Preference for Pharmaceutical Warehouse Distributors & Increase Funding for the Statewide Recovery Navigator Program

One of the most influential players in the opioid epidemic are the pharmaceutical warehouse distributors who provide large quantities of opioids to pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, labs and doctor’s offices. Currently, they benefit from a taxes preference that is no longer needed. Based on the relatively high potential for patients to become opioid dependent, we propose closing the tax preference and implementing a fee.

This bill will:

  • Generate about $70 million over two years
  • Fund the Statewide Recovery Navigator 

Peer Professional Certifications

Peer support services are extraordinarily effective at helping people in their recovery
journeys. Currently in Washington State, a “certified peer counselor” is merely a certificate and not a
formal credential from the Department of Health, licensing someone to practice their profession and
ensuring they follow ethical and legal regulations. Creating a peer credential is a critical component
in addressing our behavioral health care provider shortage.
We propose creating a new peer counselor health profession and license in the state of Washington. 

This would:

  • Help create equity with other licensed healthcare professionals like nurses and social workers
  • Create uniform standards for peer services
  • Create a career path and continuing education requirements that are peer-specific and peer-informed
  • Allow people with private insurance to access peer services for the first time
  • Allow peers to be employed directly by hospitals, jails, and other locations that are not behavioral health agencies
  • Allow the creation of a peer supervisor position so that peers are supervised by other peers

7% Increase in Medicaid Reimbursement Rates for Behavioral Health Workers

Community behavioral health agencies are unable to pay competitive wages, resulting in high turnover and inexperienced providers. Some of Washington’s most vulnerable behavioral health consumers on Medicaid receive sub-standard care and deal with frequent provider turn-over due to low wages at these agencies. Raising Medicaid rates will allow agencies to offer competitive salaries, and to retain and recruit experienced providers.

The Children and Youth Behavioral Health Work Group (CYBHWG) legislative committee is advocating for this 7% rate increase as well. The official CYBHWG recommendation states, “In order to stabilize the community behavioral health safety-net and improve access to care, implement a 7% Medicaid rate increase directed to community behavioral health agencies retroactive to January 1, 2022. The rate increase shall be implemented to all behavioral health non-hospital inpatient, residential, and outpatient providers receiving payment for services through Medicaid managed care organizations under the Community Behavioral Health section of the operating budget.”

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.

2021: The WRA helped pass SB 5195 which makes strides to address the epidemic of opioid overdoses here in Washington by increasing immediate access to naloxone, a life-saving overdose reversal drug, to decrease the risk of long-term health effects of overdose and overdose fatalities. Additionally, the WRA re-imagined a behavioral health system that better responds to crisis and were successful when HB 1477 passed; it was the response system using 988 as a mechanism for mobile crisis responders. It 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