The Washington Recovery Alliance (WRA) legislative advocacy work is a coordinated effort to help people in recovery across Washington engage their lawmakers and drive legislative change that addresses health disparities for individuals living with behavioral health challenges.
Individuals living with substance use and mental health challenges face significant disparities in access to treatment, particularly when compared to other health conditions. Because of barriers to treatment and the limited availability of recovery support services, individuals living with behavioral health conditions are disproportionately represented among individuals who are incarcerated and people experiencing homelessness.
Though WRA has historically bussed recovery advocates to the capitol from every corner of the state, they must now rapidly scale the community’s capacity to advocate virtually. With support from PHPDA, WRA will be able to pivot to alternative advocacy methods. WRA will utilize their grassroots network to organize virtual meetings with all 147 state lawmakers. They will replicate in office meetings during session, virtual events before and during session for lawmakers, and will replicate legislative briefings and legislative receptions that would normally occur. They will work to enhanced social media advocacy including illustrative graphics and utilize Twitter in a targeted manner, and email campaigns that rely on individualized emails that center personal stories.
WRA will continue work with statewide advocacy organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Washington and Civil Survival, an organization that engages formerly incarcerated individuals in legislative advocacy around criminal legal system reforms. WRA member organizations, including Recovery Café, Peer Washington, Washington Alliance for Quality Recovery Residences and many more, form a central component of the advocacy strategy. New partnerships will support the regional recovery coalitions (which includes all counties in the Puget Sound region) to coordinate with local organizations in their specific geographies.
For the 2021 legislative session, the WRA will be focused on the following policy changes and budget investments to address the aforementioned health disparities that lead to negative outcomes among the population living with behavioral health challenges:
• Continue work from the 2020 session to advocate for dedicated revenue (from opioid manufacturers, opioid distributors and/or alcohol companies) to fund the two parts of the substance use disorder continuum of care that are not covered by insurance: pre-treatment services and recovery support services. WRA was the lead architect and advocacy org behind 2020's HB 2734, which did not pass, but included dedicated funding for pre-treatment and recovery support services.
• Run a bill to create a new profession of a behavioral health peer, licensed through the Department of Health. Peers are paid, trained professionals with lived experience of mental health and/or addiction challenges who are now in recovery and provide intensive ongoing support and comprehensive case management to individuals newly in treatment/recovery. Currently, peers only receive a certificate, but they do not have a credential through DOH as other healthcare professions do. Because peers are not credentialed, individuals with private insurance, including adolescents, cannot access peer services at all. This is a health disparity. Additionally peers are not seen as equally valuable/respected compared to other healthcare professions because of their non-credentialed status.
• Creating non-law enforcement responses for individuals in behavioral health distress. Currently, 911 has two options: police or fire. We will advocate for a third pathway that would be a trauma-informed response that leads with love and diverts individuals in crisis from correctional settings.
• Diversion into treatment in lieu of incarceration for low level drug offenses.
• Legislation to support secondary schools in implementing therapeutic, trauma-informed responses to adolescents who become entangled with the student discipline process due to substance-related violations.
Washington Recovery Alliance
Washington Recovery Alliance advances mental health and substance use recovery by changing public understanding and shaping pro-recovery public policy. The WRA is a community-driven advocacy nonprofit, led by individuals in recovery from substance use disorders and mental health conditions, families impacted by behavioral health conditions, and community organizations.