Senator Murray Highlights New Funding and Tools Secured to Address Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Crises

Press Release

Date: Jan. 17, 2023
Location: Seattle, WA

Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), incoming Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, hosted a roundtable discussion on how the mental health and substance use disorder package she negotiated and passed last month, as well as the new funding she secured will help Seattle and communities across Washington state better respond to these heartbreaking crises.

During the event, Senator Murray heard directly from those on the frontlines addressing the mental health and substance use disorder crises about what more needs to be done to support their critical work. She was joined at Neighborcare's Meridian Clinic by Rashad A. Collins, CEO of Neighborcare; Dr. Cyn Kotarski, Medical Director of the Public Defender Association, and Interim Director of CoLEAD; Oleg Pynda, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Community Center of Washington; and King County Councilmember Rob Dembowski.

"Our nation is facing a crisis when it comes to mental health and substance use disorders, and clinics like this--and people like all of you--are on the frontlines," said Senator Murray. "I've been pushing every day in the other Washington to make sure we are throwing everything we've got at this crisis. That's why I worked hard to make sure the funding bill we passed last month included significant new resources to address this crisis and included a package of bipartisan steps on mental health I spent all year negotiating."

"I'm here today to hear about the challenges you are facing, and what more we can do to support you, help our families, and get our arms around this crisis," said Senator Murray in closing.

"I want to thank Senator Murray for her steadfast commitment to supporting Washington residents as we emerge from the damaging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Senator's dedicated support of state and local governments in addressing affordable housing, food security, behavioral health and economic challenges has been essential to helping our communities recover," said King County Councilmember, Rod Dembowski. "But there is more work to do, and King County looks forward to continuing our strong partnership with the federal government and Senator Murray as we press forward with compassionate and effective responses to these challenges. We are so fortunate to have Senator Murray's experience and leadership working for all of us in the United States Senate, and working together, we can solve our challenges and move forward toward a healthier, vibrant community where everyone has the opportunity to pursue their full potential."

"Many of the people living unsheltered in our communities have untreated mental health issues, often as a result of traumatic experiences throughout their lives. Standard systems of care have chronically failed to engage many of these people, and as a society, we have overlooked that care must include secure places to stay that respect people's dignity and privacy." Dr. Cyn Kotarski, Medical Director for JustCARE. "When we offer respectful environments that meet people where they are, provide support and stabilization, and have permanent housing resources to transition people to, nearly everyone living outdoors responds. With Senator Murray's support, we're going to be able to continue the approach JustCARE debuted during the pandemic for another year, showing that we can make major progress for most people with the right resources."

"We have deep gratitude for Senator Murray's long-standing commitment to community health centers that serve patients regardless of income or insurance status," said Rashad A. Collins, CEO of Neighborcare Health. "She understands that true well-being can only be achieved by caring for the whole person. She has illustrated that with recent funding for school-based health centers, mental health and substance use services, and more, which will help Neighborcare Health continue to support our patients in meeting their goals. As we look to 2023, we know that Senator Murray will be a champion for critical behavioral health workforce challenges and in renewing essential community health center funding to ensure we can continue to provide care that everyone needs and deserves."

"Today, I want to advocate for non-English speaking refugees who need Behavioral Health support and at the same time are reluctant to receive it even when such help is available. We need mental health services that are wrapped around client's immediate needs in order to bridge traditional therapeutic services and client's necessities," said Oleg Pynda, Executive Director at Ukrainian Community Center of Washington. "This is an issue that can be easily overlooked and can have serious consequences if left unaddressed. Thank you for all your work Senator Patty Murray!"

In her role as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Senator Murray kick-started a legislative initiative and, over the last year, worked with her colleagues to craft a bipartisan package to address the nation's mental health and substance use disorder crises, and challenges like the rise of fentanyl and the sharp uptick in youth mental health emergencies. She led negotiations on the health package and ensured its passage as part of the end-of-year funding package last month. Among other things, the bipartisan legislation Senator Murray negotiated will:

Strengthen the new 988 lifeline;
Support screening and treatment for maternal mental health and substance use disorders;
Build and maintain the mental health and substance use disorder workforce;
Understand and address mental health challenges kids are dealing with;
Bolster suicide prevention work and states' opioid crisis response efforts;
Increase access to substance use disorder treatment and overdose reversal medication;
Provide better support to Tribes' efforts to address mental health and substance use disorders.
At the same time, as Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee (LHHS), Senator Murray secured significant funding increases to implement the new provisions she secured in the health package and help communities address the mental health and substance use disorder crises, including:

$501.6 million--a nearly $400 million increase--for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline to successfully transition to 988;
An additional $370 million more for mental health treatment through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and
$345 million more to address opioid abuse, a total of $5 billion in all.
Senator Murray also secured more than $284 million in Congressionally-Directed Spending to support local projects and organizations across Washington state in the end-of-year package. This included over $4 million for the Public Defenders Association's JustCare project, which provides mental and behavioral health services to individuals experiencing homelessness and $500k to expand mental health services at the Ukrainian Community Center of Washington.