Addressing quality access to mental health is the driving force behind a bill heard yesterday in the Senate Health Care Committee. Senate Bill 6419will expand existing Medicaid arrangements between border communities to include critical access to mental health and psychiatric care for people living in those areas.

“Living in a border community, we have many challenges that other communities don’t have to face,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver. “This bill will address issues that were made clear during many meetings with constituents over the interim. When patients seeking psychiatric care are able to receive treatment in a timely manner, we are able to better care for those people and not have them waiting in our emergency rooms.”

The Health Care Authority and the state Department of Social and Human Services are currently working together to make sure that people living close to our state’s borders have access to physical care in case they need to cross the border for treatment. Cleveland’s legislation would expand that same cross-border cooperation to include access to mental health and psychiatric care for Medicaid enrollees at no additional cost to the state.

“When we are able to partner with our friends across state borders, we will have many more opportunities to get people the treatment they need closer to their own communities. This bill addresses timely access to mental health care for patients and also addresses challenges faced in our emergency rooms, with our law enforcement officers and the safety and health of all our border communities.”