Real results for mental-health care requires real leadership

Sen. John Braun continued calling for significant mental-health reforms and effective executive leadership following Monday morning’s announcement that Western State Hospital, the state’s largest mental-health treatment facility, has lost federal Medicare certification and the more than $50 million in federal funding that went with certification.

“Washington residents need and deserve high-quality mental-health treatment and care. While the loss of federal funding is incredibly problematic, today’s announcement should come as no surprise given the years of warnings and failure of the hospital’s leadership to correct a host of problems. Sadly, instead of solutions, we’ve seen continual leadership failures and a lack of long-term vision. While our governor has offered plenty of platitudes about the importance of mental health, his priorities seem to be elsewhere. It’s clear the Legislature must take a more active role in not only providing funds but also in creating a high-quality treatment system that helps patients and protects staff.”

Braun, R-Centralia, sponsored legislation in 2018 to authorize more than $500 million in bond-based funding to increase community mental-health treatment capacity. Had his proposal been approved, it would have made a historic investment aimed at improving care outcomes for people and allowing Western State to focus on forensic and hard-to-place civil commitment patients.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in mental-health efforts over the past four years, and lawmakers have largely agreed on the goals and path toward meeting them. Despite that in May the governor held a press conference outlining his vision, which offered nothing new and dodged the difficult part of how to actually pay for and implement the corrections that are obviously needed.

“While managing executive agencies falls under the governor’s purview, it has been clear for some time that the Legislature will need to be more prescriptive in the future when it comes to mental-health policy. We need real results for our most vulnerable friends and neighbors, not empty promises.”

Braun’s mental-health investment package was the subject of his Economic Sense newsletter, which can be read in detail here.