Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, released the following statement today after voting against the operating budget passed by the Legislature.
“I recognize the challenges and difficulties in reaching agreement on a supplemental budget for our state. While I wish the final budget was one I could support, unfortunately there were flaws too detrimental to ignore, including one that impedes southwestern Washington and our hard work to better deliver health care services.
“Our area of the state is taking the lead in being an early adopter and working to demonstrate benefits of integrating primary care, behavioral health and chemical dependency services. As a part of this early adopter effort, our Regional Support Network will be disbanded as of April 1 and the current regional support network fund balance will revert to the state and federal governments.
“While I understand this is state law, the view that these funds should not be replaced is fundamentally wrong. Failing to replace these funds in the budget, and continue to provide support for our early adopter network jeopardizes a demonstration project that deserves to be supported, not penalized.
“This is a significant barrier to implementing the integration of care that our state has encouraged and embraced. As we all know, this all boils down to providing services and help necessary to those in our community who suffer behavioral issues.
“Recently, I was provided with a stark reminder of our need to do better for our fellow Washingtonians. I was driving on I-5 in Vancouver when traffic came to a sudden halt. I looked up ahead and I saw traffic was halted due to a man dangling from the overpass, attempting to jump and commit suicide. Fortunately, first responders were able to successfully remove him from the overpass with the use of the fire department’s ladder truck. Still, the situation made clear to me the dire need for us to continue to improve mental health service delivery. We can, and must, help people from reaching the point where they want to end it all — and it begins by addressing the pain and suffering of individuals with mental health issues.
“In this case, that would have meant a budget that allocated a portion of the reserve funds from the southwestern Washington Regional Support Network for our early adopter effort, in order to better assure a successful, stronger model for others to implement around the state over time.
“Without these funds in the budget, I had to vote no, on behalf of constituents in my region and Washingtonians across the state.”