Looking Back at a Successful Behavioral Health Legislative Forum

Written by: Amanda Flatley, Project Program Manager

An estimated 650+ community members attended this year’s King County Behavioral Health Legislative Forum: A Community Conversation about Mental Health and Substance Use Recovery at Seattle Center’s Exhibition Hall on November 18, 2019.

A total of 22 state legislators and three county councilmembers attended. Also, one more state legislator and two members of Congress were represented by staff, for a total of 28 legislative offices represented! This annual event provides an opportunity for community members to speak directly with local, state, and federal elected officials on the issues that matter to them. The increased attendance of community members and legislators shows the importance of a much-needed communication platform like the annual forum.

The Speakers

King County Chief Operations Officer Casey Sixkiller gave opening remarks, stressing the importance of local investments and regional leadership in behavioral health. Behavioral Health and Recovery Division Director Kelli Nomura highlighted the accomplishments of the King County Integrated Care Network (KCICN) and its role in a “no wrong door” approach to whole-person care. Claudia D’Allegri Senior VP, Chief Behavioral Health Officer at Sea Mar, gave a provider perspective on the need to provide the same level of integrated care to all community members, regardless of insurance status.

The event also featured inspirational stories from community members about their journey through recovery and their messages of hope for the future.

Meeting Elected Officials and Community Organizations

Aside from the speaking moments, the forum facilitated direct, in-person engagement between constituents and their elected officials. About 230 community members participated in these conversations, aided by 28 community volunteer table hosts. The forum had a record 57 community co-sponsoring organizations and interpretive services offered in four languages. A welcoming and peaceful “relaxation room” was provided for attendees who wanted some time away from the crowd, thanks to partners from United Peers of Washington.

Washington Recovery Alliance and King County Recovery Coalition hosted a volunteer-run Recovery in Action event before the forum. This event created opportunities for people in recovery, providers, advocates, and allies to celebrate recovery, make new connections, and encourage others through a variety of fun and engaging activities.

This year’s forum was made possible by an exceptional team of staff from BHRD, WRA and KCRC. They have been working since the summer on welcoming and inclusion projects, speaker selection and preparation, coordination of video projects, and critical event coordination! We had about 20 BHRD volunteers who made our guests feel welcomed and honored—giving them a chance to learn, advocate, contribute, and make meaningful connections.

“Thank you to community members Joe Conniff, Teresa Anderson-Harper, Joey Wilson, and Aren Olesen for sharing with the audience, and thank you to Ana Kiss for participating as an alternate speaker. Cooper Moore and Shikota Sanchez were featured in profile videos produced by Washington Recovery Alliance specifically for the forum.”

Amanda Flatley

In Case You Missed It

The forum program was recorded in its entirety by Seattle Channel. ClearChannel 850-AM broadcasted the forum on the radio as part of emcee Neil Scott’s Recovery Coast to Coast show. Photos from the forum are now available. Find the video and photo galleries on our DCHS Behavioral Health Legislative Forum Website.

Behavioral Health Legislative Forum Pre-Event
Behavioral Health Legislative Forum 2019

Behavioral Health Legislative Priorities

2020 State Legislative Priorities for Behavioral Health

1. The State should promote enhanced Integrated Managed Care (IMC) by encouraging local networks that incorporate locally-funded systems of social determinants of health.

2. Establish robust accountability and transparency of Medicaid funding.

3. Increase access to care by addressing workforce challenges and expanding community-based behavioral treatment capacity with housing and supports.

2020 Federal Priorities for Behavioral Health

1. Support and defend access to health care, including behavioral health treatment and Medicaid.

2. Promote coordinated care and safety by aligning substance use disorder confidentiality rules with HIPAA.

3. Repeal the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion.