Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and The Columbian. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
The lack of effective treatment options for those with mental illness is a multi-billion dollar problem that leaves lives and, increasingly, communities shattered.
Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington state lawmakers, to their credit, have accepted that harsh and sad reality and are now focused on making changes to help those suffering from mental illness so they won’t turn to drugs and/or alcohol for self treatment, commit crimes and destroy their lives — and perhaps the lives of those who love them.
Lawmakers and Inslee have vowed to overhaul Washington state’s mental-health system. They want to shift psychiatric care toward community treatment and prevention, which means dealing with the severe shortage of beds in mental-health treatment facilities and qualified workers to staff them.
Under the proposals by Inslee, the House and the Senate, many state hospital patients would be moved to community placements, according to The Seattle Times. Short-term crisis and detox centers and outpatient programs would treat people before they got too sick, the newspaper reports.
The estimated cost for this and a whole lot more would be well above $1 billion in the next few years.
Unfortunately, the current legislative session is scheduled to end April 28. Lawmakers have other pressing needs to address, specifically the inadequate funding of many local school districts.
The Legislature might not have enough time to put in place a thoughtful, detailed plan to overhaul the mental-health system. Lawmakers need to get this right.
Still, progress has been made to this point. Democratic and Republican lawmakers, as well as the governor, are said to broadly agree on a plan. But, there are differences in the various proposals, which could be easily reconciled or they might result in a drawn-out dispute.
Seattle Times reporter Jospeh O’Sullivan wrote that lawmakers must decide which projects to build first, and where. And they must agree on how many should be run by private or nonprofit groups, and how many — if any — should be run by the state.
Then comes the huge question of how many millions of dollars to commit in the next two years from the state operating and capital-construction budgets for what could be a 10-year plan.
Tension surfaced last week, O’Sullivan reported, when the governor’s budget office released letters highlighting concerns that the Democratic House and Senate proposals don’t provide enough funding for parts of the plan.
Mental illness is real — like cancer, a heart attack or a broken leg — and the effort to help those suffering to properly heal is vitally important.
A plan can’t be cobbled together in a two-hour meeting on the last day of the legislative session.
If lawmakers need to take a bit more time to get this right, that’s what should be done.
Changes to primary are victories for voters
With at least 18 Democrats in the race (it’s difficult to keep track) and 570 days remaining before the 2020 presidential election, Washington voters might want to start paying attention.
We know, we know, that sounds daunting. Deciphering between the likes of John Delaney and Marianne Williamson might require a bit of research. But the good news is that — for a change — votes in Washington’s presidential primary will be meaningful.
The first step toward achieving such significance came last month, when Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill moving the state’s primary from May to the second Tuesday in March. The May primary too often left Washington voters out of the loop, typically arriving after the nominations for the major parties had essentially been decided.
In 2004 and 2012, the Legislature canceled the state’s presidential primary rather than spend money on a meaningless vote. Moving the vote to March will give Washington — the nation’s 13th most populous state — a role in choosing the nominees and should draw attention from the candidates during campaign season.
But that was only half the battle in giving our state a voice. The crescendo occurred last week when the state Democratic Party announced plans to incorporate the primary vote in apportioning delegates to the national convention.
In 2016, Democrats used only party caucuses to decide which candidates would receive support from the state’s delegates.
Republicans, meanwhile, used only the primary to apportion delegates to their convention. But by the time that vote came around, Donald Trump was the only candidate still in the race.
For 2020, Democrats are planning to use a hybrid of results from the party caucus and the primary to determine who will receive support from the state’s delegates. True democracy would dictate that the primary — which includes more voters — is the sole determinant. But the new system is an improvement.
That being said, shortcomings remain in Washington’s primary system. Since 2008, the state has not registered voters by party preference, which becomes problematic for the presidential primary. Voters will be required to mark a party preference to participate in the primary, and that preference provides the parties with a ready-made list of voters. Residents’ party preferences are public record; even though their votes remain secret, many potential voters prefer to remain on the sideline during the primary rather than declare a preference for one party or the other.
But the most important aspect is that Washington’s presidential primary in March will be meaningful. Candidates will be lured to the state to address concerns of local interest such trade policy, immigration, the environment and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. And voters will have a battalion of candidates from which to choose — at least on the Democratic side of the ballot.
Changes to the primary date and the use of that primary in choosing the nominees represent victories for Washington voters. And that might have us doing some research into, say, Andrew Yang and Tim Ryan.