(L to R): Kathy Opie, Margaret Reed, Anthony Pennant, Jennifer Sampson, joined by two members from the Mental Health Counselors Association.
The legislative year in Washington State was filled with many priorities being shifted around as the state needed to figure out how to continue to balance their budget. In all of these negotiations, the need to increase the presence of mental health clinicians in Washington was approaching crisis level.
Washington Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (WAMFT) decided to work with their lobbyist, local representatives and senators to address a sustainable way to increase the amount of clinicians in the state. The work began during the yearly Day on the Hill where a few members from the WAMFT gathered to support this bill.
Day on the Hill
On the Day at the Hill, these WAMFT Board and clinical members along with their lobbyist Amber Lewis, met with two state representatives, include Senator O’Ban to discuss the current field of family therapy and mental health treatment as a whole. The state representatives heard from WAMFT members expressing their commitment to increasing the number of clinicians and encouraging future feedback as the shape and needs of mental health is changing. Afterward, WAMFT members were able to tour the State Capitol in Olympia.
Fast forward to April of 2019, the Washington State legislature passed Senate Bill 5054; increases the behavioral health workforce by establishing a reciprocity program to increase the portability of behavioral health licenses and certifications. Currently this passed bill has been handed off to the state agencies that govern the licensure process in the state. Historically, the licensure process for out of state and existing residents were all the same regardless of previously held credentials. With reciprocity, interstate compacts and probationary licenses may be issued to help clinicians practice sooner.
WAMFT created a video series that helps expands on what Senate Bill 5054 means for Washington State and the current environment that the reciprocity bill shapes the future of MFTs practicing there. The link to the first video is here.
Ultimately, WAMFT could not have done this without the support from the Practice Protection Fund. Please consider donating as we could not have accomplished this outside of the support from AAMFT.
Anthony Pennant, LMFT
WAMFT- Legislative Chair