Washington State Legislative Update:
The 2022 Washington State Legislative Session concluded March 10, 2022. Policymakers this legislative session were particularly interested in addressing mental healthcare concerns and addressing access to care issues, but some of the proposed legislation had not received adequate input from the behavioral health professions. The bills which WAMFT expressed concerns about did not pass this legislative session.
WAMFT’s annual Day on the Hill (February 17) offered an important opportunity to speak directly with policymakers about the lived experience of practicing MFT in Washington, particularly during this challenging time.
2022 Washington Legislative Session Outcome Highlights:
SB 5596 Conforming disclosure restrictions for mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and social workers to the requirements of the Uniform Health Care Information Act. SB 5596 did not pass the Washington State legislature in the 2022 legislative session.*
HB 1865 Addressing the behavioral health workforce shortage and expanding access to peer services by creating the profession of certified peer specialists. HB 1865 did not pass the Washington State legislature in the 2022 legislative session.*
HB 1821 Concerning the definition of established relationship for purposes of audio-only telemedicine.
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 signed into law on March 30, 2022.
SB 5638 Concerning expediting approval for applicants for an associate license as a social worker, mental health counselor, or marriage and family therapist.
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. SB 5638 did not pass the Washington State legislature in the 2022 legislative session.
HB 2040 Streamlining licensing requirements for certain behavioral health professions.
This bill reduces postgraduate supervision and experience hours requirements for all masters-level behavioral health professions in Washington by 50%, including for MFTs.
HB 2040 did not pass the Washington State legislature in the 2022 legislative session.
SB 5884 Establishing Behavioral Health Support.
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 (bachelor-level paraprofessionals 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). SB 5884 did not pass the Washington State legislature in the 2022 legislative session.
learn more about WAMFT's position on these bills, and others, here.
*see below for more info on our advocacy efforts re. SB 5596 & HB 1865
Legislative Advocacy Efforts (not necessarily a complete list):
HB 1865 Addressing the behavioral health workforce shortage and expanding access to peer services by creating the profession of certified peer specialists
Provided written testimony expressing our concerns for 1/24/22 House Healthcare and Wellness Committee public hearing. View the Committee Public Hearing here.
Provided written testimony to all representatives February 2022 expressing our concerns and urging them to vote no on HB 1865.
WAMFT Concerns with HB 1865: 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.
SB 5596 Conforming disclosure restrictions for mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and social workers to the requirements of the Uniform Health Care Information Act.
Provided verbal and written testimony to the House Committee on Civil Rights & Judiciary public hearing expressing concern re. SB 5996 on 2/22/22. View the Committee Public Hearing here.
WAMFT Concerns with SB 5596: 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 to align with RCW 70.02. WAMFT supports the efforts to reconcile RCW 18.225.105 and RCW 70.02 by broadening disclosure exceptions for MFTs and other masters-level therapists. However, while RCW 18.225.105 is too restrictive, RCW 70.02 is too broad. A middle ground between RCW 18.225.105 and RCW 70.02 must be reached in order to protect client autonomy over their mental health care information while also maintaining the ability of behavioral healthcare providers to provide care.
Rule-Making Advocacy Efforts
Attended Quarterly Department of Health Mental Health Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Social Workers Advisory Committee (Note these meetings are open to the public--find more information here.)
Attended several rule-making workshops for ESSB 5229 Concerning health equity continuing education for health care professionals
Advocated that healthcare providers should be trained in how to have equity conversations with patients/clients
Anti-Racism and Anti Oppression in Policy
Do you hold a non-dominant or marginalized identity? We need your voice and expertise! WAMFT’s advocacy network is actively seeking diverse voices to better understand how to influence public policy toward anti-racism and anti oppression. Leave your information here to schedule a time to meet with WAMFT’s Legislative Chair, Charity Francis Laughlin, LMFT, CST.