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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."

Mental Health Funding A Key Issue For Washington Budget Writers

National Institute of Mental Health
National Institute of Mental Health
Washington state says it needs more hospital beds to help bring wait times for mentally ill jail inmates down.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has signed several new mental health laws in recent days. The question is whether they will be funded.

Budget negotiations are going nowhere fast at the state capitol. In addition, a federal judge recently ruled Washington must provide competency services to jail inmates within seven days. The state has nine months to reduce jail wait times.

The state says it needs to do two things to start to bring these numbers down. It needs more evaluators and for the most part that means hiring psychiatrists and it’s not that easy to find psychiatrists who are going to come work for the state at the state pay and do this work.

The state says it also needs more psychiatric beds available at Western State and Eastern State hospitals.

Disability Rights Washington sued the state of Washington over jail wait times. It reported the problem has been cut in half since the trial. Even so, the state’s own wait list shows as of May 8, 19 jail inmates were awaiting an evaluation and all had been waiting for more than seven days.

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."