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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Deaths, Lawsuits Spur Mental Health Bills In Washington Legislature

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Mental health is one of the top issues in the Washington legislature this year. Several measures cleared the Washington House Monday in advance of a Wednesday cut-off deadline.

The death of a mentally ill Seattle man at the hands of police and a murder-suicide in Spokane are spurring some of the action. So are mental health lawsuits against the state.

There is a sense that during the Great Recession, funding did not keep up with needs and so that now that we’ve got some money coming back into the coffers, there is a real push to start rebuilding the mental health safety net.

The push to expand mental health services in Washington comes at the same time lawmakers are under court order to fully fund public schools. The cost to open more mental health beds and expand treatment options is expected to cost tens-of-millions of dollars.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."