Legislative Updates

WMHCA is your voice in Olympia


Here’s an update on our latest activities regarding government issues -- legislation, regulations, court cases, etc — that affects us as mental health counselors. If there are other issues you want us to be engaged with, please let us know. We value your input.”


In August of 2018 WMHCA retained lobbyist Sara Stewart and Melanie Stewart.  They well help represent WMHCA in Olympia to make sure our voices are heard.

Session Update

WMHCA Update and Interim Plan

This session saw an overwhelming amount of bills related to behavioral and mental health issues. Almost every legislator had some sort of mental health bill on the top of their priority list. During the Legislative session, we met with key players on both sides of the aisle to discuss WMHCA’s priorities and we played a strong role in the Behavioral Health Coalition. 
The coalition met weekly (and more often when needed) to discuss the priority bills and issues. We would split up to target key legislators utilizing a “divide and conquer” strategy. Different groups and lobbyists often have allies that another might not have and this approach is very successful to cover all of the bases that are necessary. 
Once the initial cut off date passed, the number of bills that were going to move forward became smaller and more specific. That allowed us to focus on issues that were realistically going to pass (or die) this session. 
We met with legislators daily, attended committee hearings and monitored floor discussions as they arose. As session continued, and more cut off dates passed, the number of bills decreased, and we were able to hone in on our priority issues (a full bill list is below.) 
Brief Summary of Substitute Bill:
  • Establishes an alternative standard for becoming certified as a chemical dependency professional for psychologists, independent clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, and certain agency affiliated counselors.
  • Directs the Department of Health to contract with an educational program to offer the alternative certification training both in-person and online at a reduced price.
  • Reduces the amount of supervised experience required for an applicant for a license to become a psychologist, social worker, marriage and family therapist, or mental health counselor if the applicant has practiced as a certified chemical dependency professional for at least three years.
Unfortunately due to "politics within politics" this bill did not move forward even though it would have been very beneficial to the citizens of Washington. This often happens in Olympia when legislators' personal agendas become priority over all other things. We fought to try and revive this bill, even amending the language on to another bill while it was in the Senate - HB 1768: Concerning substance use disorder professional practice.
In the end, the amendments we proposed did not “hang” and the bill as written is headed to the Governor’s office. WMHCA has written to the Governor’s office, asking for a veto, as has the other members of our coalition. To date, the bill has not yet been signed and we are still pushing for the Governor to veto portions of HB 1768. 
On a more positive note, many bills that will benefit the profession, as well as those individuals seeking mental health assistance, did move forward. 
HB 1593: Establishing a behavioral health innovation and integration campus within the University of Washington school of medicine, was the first bill in 20 years that Speaker Frank Chopp sponsored and it passed both chambers unanimously. 
SB 5054: Increasing the behavioral health workforce by establishing a reciprocity program to increase the portability of behavioral health licenses and certifications. 
This bill requires the department of health to establish a reciprocity program for applicants for licensure or certification as a chemical dependency professional, mental health counselor, social worker, or marriage and family therapist in the state; and Explore options for adoption of an interstate compact supporting license portability for certain licensed professionals. 
SB 5444 known as the “Trueblood bill” also is sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting signature. 
I have included a PDF file of all bills that we were tracking this Legislative session. 
During the interim, it is our goal to canvas the state to meet with key legislators to educate them and to promote WHMCA’s agenda. Our target legislators include the following: 
House Health Care Committee: 
Rep. Eileen (D) Chair 
Rep. Nicole Macri (D) Vice Chair 
Rep. Joe Schmick (R) Ranking Minority Member
Rep. Michelle Caldier (R) Assistant Ranking Minority Member
Rep. Lauren Davis (D)
Rep. Richard DeBolt (R)
Rep. Paul Harris (R)
Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D)
Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber (R)
Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D)
Rep. June Robinson (D)
Rep. Monica Stonier (D)
Rep. My-Linh Thai (D)
Rep. Steve Tharinger (D) 
Senate Health Care Committee: 
Sen. Annette Cleveland (D) Chair 
Sen. Emily Randall (D) Vice Chair 
Sen. Steve O’Ban (R) Ranking Member 
Sen. Barbara Bailey (R)
Sen. Randi Becker (R)
Sen. Steve Conway (D)
Sen. Manka Dhingra (D)
Sen. David Frockt (D)
Sen. Karen Keiser (D)
Sen. Ann Rivers (R)
Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D)
We will be meeting with the Department of Health as needed and we will continue to attend the Behavioral Health Coalition meetings as well as the Master's Level Therapist Stakeholder Meeting at the Department of Labor and Industries.  
As needed, we will inform the membership of any assistance we might need in reaching out to legislators. When a constituent talks to their representatives it is very impactful and beneficial as you are the experts in your field and legislators need to hear from you to be properly educated on our issues. 
It has been a pleasure to serve WMHCA this legislative session! 
Melanie & Sara Stewart
Melanie Stewart and Associates, LLC 
HPC Advocacy
Cascade Government Affairs 

Letter to the Governor

Governor Jay Inslee                                                                                           May 2, 2019

Office of the Governor

PO Box 40002

Olympia, WA 98504-0002


Governor Inslee:


I am writing on behalf of the Washington Mental Health Counselors Association (WMHCA) and the 460 members spread across WA state.  We are asking that you veto sections 25, 26, 29 and 30 of ESHB 1768 to avoid a lengthy, costly, and harmful obstacle for credentialing licensed mental health (MH) counselors to provide treatment for co-occurring substance use disorders (SUDs).


Licensed mental health counselors (master’s level training with supervised hours) are currently trained and licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, but only a fraction of chemical dependency professionals or rather substance abuse disorder professionals (requiring only an associates degree with supervised practice), are unable to treat more complex co-occurring disorders for which years of training and supervised experience are required.  These sections of the bill create a narrow, restricted, and unnecessarily complex and burdensome requirement for master’s level counselors who have already taken 6 years of training and an additional 3000 hours of supervised practice.


I have attached a more detailed description of the problems associated with these sections of the bill for your review.  Thank you for considering the concerns of mental health counselors as we all deal with the serious problem of mental health and chemical dependency use in our society.


Yours sincerely,

Marianne Marlow, LMHC, President

Washington Mental Health Counselors Association




Shannon Thompson, LMHC, Education and Advocacy Director

Washington Mental Health Counselors Association