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Inside Olympia — Behavioral Health with Reps. Tina Orwall and Greg Cheney

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Washington state has been trying for years to transform its behavioral health system. To make it work better for those most in need while serving people in their communities instead of in state hospitals when possible. But even as the system is being rebuilt it is under tremendous strain and faces tremendous pressure.

The combination of people experiencing acute mental illness and the impacts of the opioid crisis have stressed the system. So has the number of people in jails who need competency restoration services. There are also workforce issues that make it a challenge to serve all of those in need.

Behavioral health is our topic this week. Host Austin Jenkins goes in-depth with two state representatives whose professional backgrounds give them an insider’s perspective on the behavioral health system: State Representative Tina Orwall serves on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee and has decades of professional background in public mental health. State Represenative Greg Cheney serves on the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee, works as an attorney providing representation to low-income defendants, and is a former board member of the Southwest Washington chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Among the topics of discussion: the 988 crisis response hotline; new “23-hour” crisis relief centers, modeled on facilities in Arizona, that provide a convenient first line of response to mental health crises, both for those suffering with mental health issues and for law enforcement; how to develop and enable the behavioral health workforce needed to meet the demand; the best way to deal with drug treatment and the “Blake” decision; and much more.