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Behavioral Health Workforce — our testimony

Here is the testimony Celestine West submitted on HB 1348, “Establishing behavioral health support specialists,” which has a companion bill in the Senate (SB 5189):

I am Celestine West, a retired psychiatric nurse now living in Seattle. I am submitting this testimony in favor of HB 1348 on behalf of Quaker Voice on Washington Public Policy.

There is a well-documented crisis in behavioral health care. Those in need of behavioral health services at all levels from crisis intervention to outpatient counseling and acute inpatient/resident care have long waits or are not able to access needed help. This is especially true for some of the most vulnerable populations such as children, rural residents, unhoused individuals and immigrants.

One of the biggest barriers to providing access to behavioral health care is the training and retention of behavioral health workers. Establishing a group of behavioral health specialists who could make brief, evidenced based interventions would be a step in addressing the crisis in access to needed care. The behavioral health specialists could also potentially free masters and PhD level mental health professionals to serve those with more complex needs in a timely manner. This bill could also create a pathway to progressing in the behavioral health career track.

Our support for this bill reflects the Quaker testimony on equality. People with behavioral health problems face stereotypes, discrimination, and increased risk of violence. In order to have a Washington State in which everyone can fulfill their potential, we need to have the people available to provide help for behavioral health needs.

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