Senate unanimously passes Brown bill to help children and new moms access mental-health services

Today the Senate unanimously passed a bill from Sen. Sharon Brown that would continue her efforts to address the state’s mental-health needs. Senate Bill 6452 would expand the activities of the children’s mental-health services consultation program and create a pilot program to specifically address the needs of children, pregnant women and new mothers.

“This bill is about establishing the Partnership Access Line for Moms and Kids pilot program, and it truly will be a lifeline for those women and children in desperate need of mental-health resources,” said Brown, R-Kennewick.

“The testimony on this bill was truly heart-breaking – to hear women and providers discuss how difficult it is to find resources and help at some of the most difficult times was eye-opening. This incredibly important and good little bill will provide the support health-care professionals who provide care for pregnant women and new moms need, and assist parents and guardians with connecting with much-needed mental health services.”

In addition to creating the two-year PAL for Moms and Kids pilot program, Senate Bill 6452 would also require the state Health Care Authority to collaborate with the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital to provide annual reporting on the pilot program’s outcomes. Also the HCA would be tasked with enforcing network adequacy and care-coordination requirements in managed-care contracts.

“When a woman is going through a pregnancy it can be among the most difficult and stressful periods in her life,” Brown pointed out. “Mental-health services, when needed, are crucial and time-sensitive; yet those very services can be difficult to find, and the system itself can be hard to navigate – even for providers.

“Let’s fix that and get these women and children the help they need.”

The Partnership Access Line (PAL) supports primary care providers (doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants) with questions about mental health care such as diagnostic clarification, medication adjustment, or treatment planning.

Brown thanked her colleagues for their help in expanding the work of PAL in Washington, and called out Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, for his leadership and assistance in working on the bill.

“The PALS program has been vital to communities around the state that are underserved by behavioral and mental health services,” Frockt said. “I’m proud to represent the 46th District, home to Children’s Hospital, and I look forward to more of our state’s moms and kids gaining access to the services that flow through this great resource.”

Brown has made mental-health and suicide prevention – especially for Washington’s young people – one of her top priorities in the Legislature. Earlier this week the Senate passed Brown’s bill to address suicide and mental health services needs on college campuses. Last year she authored the Youth Behavioral Health Protection Act, which requires the state Health Care Authority to take action aimed at facilitating integration of behavioral health with primary care. She also successfully fought for an unprecedented level of funding in the state’s budget for mental-health needs.