Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After spending the last two weeks debating and voting on legislation, we're now passed the house of origin cutoff. Any House bill that hasn't passed the House (other than those necessary to implement the budget) is considered dead for the session. We'll now start working on Senate bills that have passed the Senate.
It's always an interesting exercise when looking at Senate bills that oftentimes deal with the same issues but perhaps come at solving the problems from a slightly different angle. It hopefully leads to more thorough solutions for our citizens.
Telephone Town Hall
Please join me and Rep. Mary Dye for our 9th District Telephone Town Hall on Thursday, March 23 from 6 – 7 p.m. Just call (509) 724-2970 to listen in. You can ask questions, take part in our short on-air survey, or just listen from the comfort of your own home.
If you can't participate because of previous commitments but have a question you'd like us to address, please do so via e-mail. We're going to compile a list of questions from constituents and hope to get to them at some point during our hour-long event. Just send an e-mail, along with your first name and hometown, to Joe.Schmick@leg.wa.gov and in the subject line write “Telephone Town Hall Question.” With the hundreds of e-mails we get, this will make it easier for us to find your questions.
I have spent the last year serving on the Select Committee on Quality Improvement in State Hospitals, or the SCQISH committee. The long-term plan is to shift people out of state hospitals who are not a threat to themselves or others and to serve them in local communities. There will be a push to build capacity and serve patients in local communities every year as we're consistently seeing requests from law enforcement and every community health provider for more locally-provided services. The Legislature is making this a priority.
I have three bills this session that deal with behavioral health as this is an issue that effects every community in the state. The first bill (ESHB 1547) deals with Certificate of Need (CON) which was first put in place to limit the amount of hospitals and nursing home beds so there would not be an over concentration in urban or rural areas. My bill allows community hospitals to temporary suspend the CON so they can serve people with behavioral health issues without going through the lengthy and difficult CON process. This bill passed the House and is now in the Senate Health Care Committee.
My next bill (EHB 2107) will modify state law to allow community hospitals to serve people with behavioral health issues in long-term care. This bill passed the House and is in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee.
Finally, I have legislation (ESHB 1548) to allow skilled nursing homes to develop training to specifically train their employees to serve patients with behavioral issues. After developing the curriculum, it will have to be reviewed and approved by the Department of Social and Health Services. This will help nursing homes to be better equipped to serve clients with appropriate care after training. This bill passed the House and is now in the Senate Health Care Committee. As a side note, this bill was brought to me by a constituent who saw the need in our local community. I always welcome the opportunity to introduce legislation brought to me by community members who bring common-sense solutions to the table.
All three of these bills are the framework of the plan to build community resources to serve patients with specific mental health issues in every community across the state.
Thank you for reading my e-newsletter. Please feel free to forward it to family and friends who you think might be interested in learning more about state government issues. It is an honor to serve you in Olympia.