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Inside Olympia – Behavioral Health, Retiring Senator

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This week host Austin Jenkins interviews two state senators who are closely involved with efforts to shore up the state’s behavioral health system, plus an exit interview with State Sen. Reuven Carlyle.

Democratic State Senator David Frockt of Seattle chairs the Senate’s Behavioral Health Subcommittee. Senator Keith Wagoner of Sedro Woolley is the ranking Republican on that committee. Both senators say, it’s an interesting committee: Unlike many committees it’s very bipartisan, with Democrats and Republicans sharing a vision for what the state needs to do to prepare the state to better respond to mental health and substance abuse needs.

Frockt, using a sports analogy, says the state is in the “second quarter” of this effort. In recent years the Legislature has appropriated funding to build out community-based behavioral health facilities, with those facilities mostly just starting to come online. At the same time, through policy bills and the budget, the Legislature has supported building the behavioral health workforce, for instance through the creation of a new teaching hospital in Seattle associated with UW Medicine.

Both senators talk about behavioral health legislation being considered this year in Olympia. And both agree while there’s still a long way to go, the state is on the right path.

For fourteen years Reuven Carlyle — first as a state represenative, then as a state senator — has been involved in some of the key debates at the State Capitol: climate change, including last year’s cap-and-trade bill; efforts to pass a data privacy bill, which would set down how tech companies must protect consumers’ personal data; legislation to abolish the death penalty in statute, a bill that has passed the State Senate but never the House; efforts to increase access to public records; a proposal to prohibit elected officials from lobbying for a specified period when they leave office; and much more.

Carlyle talks about his years in Olympia, the support of his family during those years, and his decision to step down. He says it’s the right time, that he feels good about his accomplishments at the State Capitol, and that he “left it all on the field.”

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