Yakima Valley priorities: A look at what people want out of their lawmakers in Olympia

The Washington Legislature convenes Monday in Olympia. Over the next 60 days, lawmakers — lawmakers we elected — will make decisions that affect nearly every aspect of Washington life.

Yakima Herald-Republic reporters reached out to people who live and work in the Valley to ask what they’d like to see out of the Legislature this year in four areas: Mental and behavioral health, education, homelessness and the environment.

Here’s what they said.

— Greg Halling, managing editor

Mental and behavioral health

Yakima Valley experts on mental and behavioral health want to see mental health get attention — and funding — from state officials on the same level as physical health because it’s just as crucial, they say.

At the same time, mental and behavioral health advocates know funds are limited. But some aspects of mental and behavioral health need increased funding now.

“I also believe their approach to funding should reflect a comprehensive understanding of wellness and thus should include large budgets for substance use prevention and mental health promotion in addition to funding for treatment and recovery,” Schillreff said.

Schillreff recently led Teen Mental Health First Aid training for students and adults in White Swan.

Mary Stephenson, president of NAMI Yakima, is a member of the NAMI Washington Policy Committee and met recently with Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, about the upcoming session.

She noted that 2019 saw the passage of many mental health-related bills, with increased overall funding. The 2020 session will see re-introduction of bills that did not pass last year. They will include House Bill 1240, sponsored by Mosbrucker, which would create a youth suicide review team to focus on the causes of youth suicide in order to develop targeted intervention programs.

“Other legislation which should receive consideration is the creation of a statewide office of a mental health ombudsman,” Stephenson said in an email. “Currently there are regional offices, but no statewide office.”

“Frequently, family members are unable to get help for their loved ones who resist treatment until a crisis occurs and even then, the current definitions of imminent danger to self or others or gravely disabled do not apply,” she said.

The committee is also looking at a bill for the development of advance mental health directives, which would allow a person to agree to treatment prior to a mental health crisis, a time when they are no longer competent.

Other legislation for consideration, Stephenson said, addresses safety in adult family homes, Medicaid rates that are half those of other states, guardianship and children’s mental health.

— Tammy Ayer

FILE – In this Dec. 4, 2018 file photo, pedestrians make their way toward the Legislative Building at dusk at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

January 12th, 2020|News|