Gov. Jay Inslee criticizes Senate’s proposed cuts to Western State Hospital

This article is crossposted on State of Reform, a health policy news site. 

Gov. Jay Inslee came out strongly against the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus’ proposed budget for the 2017-2019 biennium and highlighted the suggested cuts to Western State Hospital.

The MCC would increase funding to mental health care by $250 million, but they focus those monies toward community-based mental health care.

“The budget does not fund reforms that are already underway at Western State Hospital,” Inslee said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “It actually cuts the salaries of nurses and doctors we’ve been working so hard to recruit. We are making progress in those hospitals. It will be going backwards if the Republicans essentially cut our ability to have people working there.”

He also said that cuts to housing programs could lead to additional funding gaps in treating mental health.

“The housing program that helps us keep people out of Western State Hospital is completely eliminated in their proposal,” he said at the conference. “That’s as many as 4,600 people who can become homeless as a result of gutting that program.”

The MCC’s budget proposal’s take on collective bargaining contracts could also have a heavy impact. Instead of planning on pay increases as outlined in contracts, the budget proposal would give public employees raises of $1,000.

“Look, they actually want to cut salaries for nurses at Western State Hospital,” Inslee said at the press conference. “Now, we have struggled mightily to build up the staffing at Western State Hospital and (we’re) now up about 100 people or plus because we’ve been able to increase salaries to be a little more competitive with the private sector.”

Western State has been through some rocky years. It’s been chronically understaffed, faced security problems and was dubbed the “single most violent workplace in Washington state,” according to a 2016 Seattle Times article.

Erin Fenner: erin@washingtonstatewire.com, @erinfenner

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