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

HB 2091 & SB 5952 – Close the Tax Preference for Pharmaceutical Warehouse Distributors & Fund

Substance Use Disorder Outreach & Recovery Services

Pharmaceutical warehouse distributors (companies that sell large batches of drugs, including opioids, to

pharmacies) are given special treatment in our tax code. They receive a discount on the business and

occupation tax that other businesses have to pay in full. That tax break increases the profits of these

multi-billion dollar companies, while the state loses nearly $20 million each year in potential funding for

much needed behavioral health services. The economic reason that led to the creation of this tax

preference is no longer valid.

Specifically, the increased revenue from closing this tax preference would be allocated to addiction

recovery services that are not reimbursable by Medicaid or commercial insurance—the outreach services

that help get people into treatment and the recovery support services that help people remain in long-term

recovery after treatment.

HB 1865 – Peer Professional Certifications

Peer support services are extraordinarily effective at helping people in their recovery journeys. Peers are

people in recovery from addiction or mental health conditions who receive training to work with individuals

who are presently struggling with similar challenges. Currently, behavioral health peers are not a

recognized profession by the Department of Health. Creating a peer certification under DOH is a critical

component to address our behavioral health workforce crisis. Peers are the only behavioral health

profession where we have a surplus, rather than a shortage, of willing workers. Creating a peer

certification would allow people with private insurance to access peer services for the first time. It would

also allow insurance billing for peer services delivered in other settings such as emergency departments,

primary care, and urgent care. Furthermore, it would create a career pathway for peers and improve the

quality of peer services through uniform standards and continuing education.

7% Increase in Medicaid Reimbursement Rates for Behavioral Health Care

For the first time in state history, our community behavioral health agencies are putting people on waitlists

for outpatient care. Community behavioral health agencies are unable to pay competitive wages, resulting

in high turnover and inexperienced providers serving clients with the highest needs. Providers simply do

not have enough staff. Raising Medicaid rates will allow community behavioral health agencies to offer

competitive salaries and to retain and recruit experienced providers to meet the crisis at hand.

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