LEGISLATIVE AGENDA 2022*
Concerning expediting approval for applicants for an associate license as a social worker, mental health counselor, or marriage and family therapist.
Prime Sponsor: Wagoner R-39
This bill gives Washington associate license applicants the ability to work as an associate (with their supervisor onsite) while waiting for their associate license to be issued. We support this bill because it addresses current behavioral health labor shortage issues, minimizes disruption of pay for associate applicants, and addresses a long-term problem where interns at a private group practice who are continuing work at that practice as an associate have to disrupt therapy with their clients while waiting for their associate license to be issued. This bill also allows the Secretary to create additional requirements by rule if the supervisor license type does not match the associate license type.
SB 5638 did not pass the Washington State legislature in the 2022 legislative session.
Concerning prototypical school formulas for physical, social, and emotional support in schools.
SB 5595 Prime Sponsor: Wellman D-41; HB 1664 Prime Sponsor: Rule D-42
We support the notion of increased ratios for socio-emotional support workers in schools, and that funds allocated for these workers not be used elsewhere. We would also like to see a new School-Based MFT or School-Based Mental Health Therapist job classification within schools in Washington.
SSHB 1664 passed the Washington State Legislature in 2022 and was delivered to the governor on March 10, 2022.
Concerning appropriations for behavioral health
Prime Sponsor: Braun R-20
We support a 7% increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates in order to retain and incentivize behavioral health workforce.
SB 5829 did not pass the Washington State legislature in the 2022 legislative session.
Concerning the children and youth behavioral health work group
Prime Sponsor: Callan D-5
This bill creates a strategic plan advisory group under the children and youth behavioral health work group within the Health Care Authority to develop a behavioral health strategic plan for children, youth, and caregivers;, adds a member, allows stipends for members with lived experience, and allows 6 meetings per year. The workgroup can invite individuals with subject matter expertise, and we would like to see a MFT on We would like MFT to be a required association for this workgroup in order to advocate for cultural attunement and systemic perspective in working with children and families. We need a MFT to apply for this workgroup! If you are interested, please email email@example.com.
HB 1890 passed the Washington State Legislature in 2022 and was delivered to the governor on March 10, 2022.
Streamlining licensing requirements for certain behavioral health professions
Prime Sponsor: Callan D-5
This bill reduces postgraduate supervision and experience hours requirements for all masters-level behavioral health professions in Washington by 50%, including for MFTs. The existing COAMFTE credit would likewise be reduced by 50%. This bill intends to address the behavioral health workforce shortage, but it is unclear how it would do so except perhaps by incentivizing more individuals to enter the profession (via reducing training requirements); at best, this will only have impacts several years out in addressing the shortage. In addition, reducing supervision requirements to this level will put us on the lower end of requirements compared with other states. Quality supervision is the backbone of our training as behavioral health professionals, and a better path would be to attract new individuals to the field by subsidizing training through avenues such as loan forgiveness, grants, intern pay, and sustainable wages, rather than reducing/diluting training standards.
HB 2040 did not pass the Washington State legislature in the 2022 legislative session.
Conforming disclosure restrictions for mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and social workers to the requirements of the Uniform Health Care Information Act.
Prime Sponsor: Trudeau D-27
Currently, MFTs are bound by the disclosure exceptions of two separate Washington laws, RCW 70.02 et seq. and RCW 18.225.105 (the latter being more restrictive). The proposed legislation seeks to better align these two laws by expanding disclosure exceptions in RCW 18.225.105. WAMFT supports the notion of broadening disclosure exceptions for MFTs and other masters-level therapists but also wants this effort to be balanced with client autonomy over private health information and consideration be given for applicability to private practice and HIPAA alignment.
SB 5596 did not pass the Washington State legislature in the 2022 legislative session.
Concerning Peer Specialists
Prime Sponsor: Davis D-32
This bill has been revived in the 2022 Legislative Session. WAMFT believes that the scope of practice for peer specialists should be thoughtfully defined in order to delineate where an individual with lived experience but not Masters-level training should fit in the continuum of care.
HB 1349 did not pass the Washington State legislature in the 2022 legislative session.
Addressing the behavioral health workforce shortage and expanding access to peer services by creating the profession of certified peer specialists
Prime Sponsor: Davis D-32
WAMFT supports the notion of increased access to care and respects the important work peers provide for our clients but believes that the scope of practice for peer specialists should be thoughtfully defined in order to delineate where an individual with lived experience but not Masters-level training should fit in the continuum of care. WAMFT has recommended that if this legislation is allowed to go forward, the role must be aligned with existing best practice, nested within a care team rather than provided as a standalone service, and supported by comprehensive training that includes cultural attunement, self-of-the-provider awareness, and trauma-informed care. In addition, WAMFT is advocating that policymakers adopt effective short- and long-term strategies to create greater sustainability for masters- and doctoral-level clinicians in order to retain highly credentialed behavioral health workforce.
HB 1865 did not pass the Washington State legislature in the 2022 legislative session.
Establishing Behavioral Health Support
Prime Sponsor: Trudeau D-27
This bill requires the Department of Health to partner with the University of Washington to develop rules for the certification for behavioral health support specialists. (A behavioral health support specialist is defined as a paraprofessional trained to deliver low-intensity, evidence-based behavioral health interventions for adults with mild-to-moderate behavioral health conditions in ongoing partnership with a licensed healthcare provider). This legislation cites the results of a UK program, Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, which provided stepped-down brief services with moderately promising results. While WAMFT desires to see measures to increase access to care and address workforce shortage, the paraprofessional role, if allowed to go forward, must be thoughtfully and narrowly defined due to the training differential between a paraprofessional versus a bachelor- or doctoral-level clinician. In addition, similarly to the peer specialist legislation, we urge policymakers to adopt effective short- and long-term strategies to create greater sustainability for masters- and doctoral-level clinicians in order to retain highly-credentialed behavioral health workforce.
SB 5884 did not pass the Washington State legislature in the 2022 legislative session.
Concerning the definition of established relationship for purposes of audio-only telemedicine
Prime Sponsor: Schmick R-9
This bill defines the “established relationship” requirement for audio-only telemedicine that goes into effect on 1/1/23.
HB 1821 passed the Washington State Legislature in 2022 and was delivered to the governor on March 10, 2022.
Enhancing and expanding behavioral health and suicide prevention crisis response services
HB 1182 Prime Sponsor: Orwall D-33: SB 5209 Prime Sponsor: Dhingra D-45
WAMFT retains interest in aspects of 988 implementation having to do with cultural attunement, collaboration with law enforcement, and incorporation of peer specialists into the continuum of care.
HB 1182 & SB 5209 did not pass the Washington State legislature in the 2022 legislative session.
* Current at the time of publishing 3/14/22
** Not necessarily a complete list
LEGISLATIVE AGENDA 2021
Concerning health equity continuing education for health care professionals
Requires the rule-making authority for each health profession to adopt rules requiring health care professionals to complete health equity education training at least once every four years.
Requires health equity courses to teach skills that enable a health care professional to care effectively for patients from diverse cultures, groups, and communities, varying in race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, religion, age, ability, and socioeconomic status.
Signed into law 5/12/21
House Bill 1237
Defining family resource centers
Defines the term "family resource center" to mean a unified single point of entry where families, individuals, children, and youth in communities can obtain information, an assessment of needs, referral to, or direct delivery of family services in a manner that is welcoming and strength-based.
Signed into law 4/14/21
Implementing the national 988 system to enhance and expand behavioral health crisis response and suicide prevention services
Directs the Department of Health to designate crisis hotline centers that meet standards related to technology and the ability to identify and deploy community crisis resources for persons experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
Establishes the 988 Implementation Team to provide guidance in implementing the 988-crisis hotline and the resources required for staffing, training, and technology for call centers to achieve an in-state call response of at least 90 percent.
Establishes the Crisis Response Improvement Strategy Committee to develop a comprehensive assessment of the behavioral health crisis services system and a recommended vision for an integrated crisis network throughout Washington.
Establishes the Statewide 988 Behavioral Health Crisis Response Line Tax on phone lines to fund the crisis hotline centers and response services.
Signed into law 5/13/21
Concerning audio-only telemedicine
Requires reimbursement for audio-only telemedicine services.
Expands the definition of telemedicine for hospital privileging to include audio-only telemedicine services.
Requires the Insurance Commissioner to study and make recommendations regarding telemedicine.
Extends the termination date of the telemedicine collaborative.
Signed into law 5/3/21
Concerning audio-only telemedicine
Requires behavioral health administrative service organizations and managed care organizations to reimburse providers for behavioral health service provided to any covered person if the services meet certain requirements.
Signed into law 4/16/21
LEGISLATIVE GOALS 2021-2022
LEGISLATIVE ACHIEVEMENTS 2020
2020 brought many unforeseen challenges necessitating flexibility to address pressing current events. WAMFT’s lobbyists advocated for MFTs to be considered essential workers in Washington, advocated for telehealth pay parity from payors during the pandemic, and continued to provide defense against any increase in licensure fees. Lastly, Washington State SB 5054 (Licensure Reciprocity) became active, and licensed MFTs began to apply for lateral transfers of their credentials. However, our lobbyists continue to advocate for an improved verification process as many out of state clinicians have increased waiting times for their Washington State credentials.
LEGISLATIVE AGENDA 2019
Senate Bill 5054
Senate Bill 5054 directs the Department of Health to establish a reciprocity program for applicants from other states who seek a credential in Washington as a chemical dependency professional, mental health counselor, social worker, marriage and family therapist, or psychologist. The amended bill applies the reciprocity program to applicants from other states or territories with substantially equivalent or greater scope of practice to Washington's, rather than an equivalent scope of practice or greater. Persons with a probationary credential are limited to only practicing in licensed or certified behavioral health service providers. The Department of Health must prioritize identifying the five states or territories that have historically had the most applicants for reciprocity with a scope of practice that is substantially equivalent to or greater than the scope in Washington. With good luck, the House Appropriations committee will vote on the bill next week.
House Bill 1415
This bill ends use of the Health Professions Account for the administration of the Medical Marijuana Authorization database and requires that fees collected for the recognition card issued by a medical marijuana retailer with a medical marijuana endorsement be deposited in the Dedicated Marijuana Account. The Health Professions Account, the account that licensing fees including those of WAMFT are deposited into, may no longer be used to provide funding for administering the database. Fees collected for the recognition cards used by marijuana retailers must be deposited into the Dedicated Marijuana Account, instead of the Health Professions Account. The Senate Ways and Means committee will vote on this bill next week.
House Bill 1768
Relates to modernizing substance use disorder professional practice. This comprehensive bill seeks to accomplish many things:
• Renames chemical dependency professionals as substance use disorder professionals (SUDPs).
• Changes references to the goal of chemical dependency counseling from assisting clients to achieve and maintain abstinence to assisting clients in their recovery.
• Prohibits the Department of Health (DOH) from requiring an applicant to be an SUDP or substance use disorder trainee to participate in a voluntary substance abuse monitoring program after the applicant has one year of recovery from a substance use disorder.
• Prohibits DOH or a facility that cares for vulnerable adults from automatically denying certification or employment as a SUPD based on certain convictions after one year of recovery from a substance use disorder or untreated mental health disorder.
• Directs DOH to create a co-occurring disorder specialist enhancement for master's level mental health professionals and social workers which allows them to treat clients for substance use disorders who have a co-occurring mental health disorder that qualifies as a serious mental illness.
• Directs DOH to conduct a sunrise review to evaluate the need for creation of a bachelor's level behavioral health professional credential.
The Senate Ways and Means committee will vote on this bill next week.
Senate Bill 5385
Concerning Telemedicine Parity. For health plans issued on or after January 1, 2020, regulated health insurance carriers and the state employee health plans must reimburse a provider for health care service provided through telemedicine at the same rate as health care service provided in-person. Upon initiation or renewal of a contract with the Health Care Authority to administer a Medicaid managed care plan, a managed health care system must reimburse a provider for health care service provided through telemedicine at the same rate as health care service provided in-person. However, hospitals, hospital systems, telemedicine companies, and provider groups of 11 or more providers may negotiate and agree to reimbursement rates that differ from in-person services rates. Reimbursement for a facility fee must be subject to a negotiated agreement between the originating site and the health carrier. The requirement that services provided through store and forward technology must have an associated office visit is removed. The Collaborative for the Advancement of Telemedicine is directed to study store and forward technology with a focus on utilization, whether it should be paid at parity within in-person services, the potential for the technology to improve rural health outcomes, and ocular services. This bill is still waiting for a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee.