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Inslee signs supplemental budget for wildfires, mental health

by caprecord

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the first bill of the session on Thursday, supplementing the current budget with more than $217 million for disaster relief and additional funds to the state’s mental health and child welfare systems.

“Leaders worked very quickly and very diligently to respond to the extraordinary, unanticipated costs of the past 12 months,” Inslee said. “I do think it portends well that the Legislature has been able to act with great efficiency and speed to reach an agreement on how to get this done.”

House Bill 1105 allocates more than $77 million to fire and disaster management. Some of the funds will go towards repaying costs accrued from the Carlton Complex fire, the largest in state history.

The supplemental budget also funds 45 beds at Western State Hospital. Thirty beds would be for the civil ward, and 15 would be for the forensic ward. The funding is partly a response to a lawsuit that the state lost last year, which ruled the state could not continue to board mental health patients in emergency rooms.

Other mental health funds will pay for an increased number of competency evaluation services, which determine whether a person is fit to stand trial. Patients allege they were forced to wait an unconstitutional amount of time before receiving such evaluations. Earlier this year, a Department of Social and Health Services official told lawmakers the department needed more funding to provide such services faster.

The bill also includes a partial payout in Rekhter v. Washington Department of Social and Health Services. The state Supreme Court ruled 5-4, ordering the department to reimburse 22,000 in-home care providers $79 million for unpaid services.

The budget also puts additional funds in the state’s child welfare system.  Lawmakers moved up the state’s annual budget forecast, which historically had been delivered on March 20 in budget years. It will be presented on Friday, one month earlier.

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