Sen. Patty Murray Advocates for Mental Health Resources in Tacoma

This week, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, met with local leaders and advocates in Tacoma to discuss local and federal partnerships around mental and behavioral health care.

In particular, while Murray is fighting to protect key national investments in mental health at the federal level, she is also working to secure $500,000 for the City of Tacoma to establish a municipal therapeutic court and $2,000,000 for HopeSparks Family Services to support the construction of a new pediatric medical and behavioral health care center.

At the conclusion of the discussion, Murray also toured a mobile unit of the Holistic Outreach Promoting Engagement (HOPE) program.

During the roundtable discussion, Murray was joined by John Hines, Deputy Mayor of Tacoma; Joseph Le Roy, President and CEO of HopeSparks Family Services; Ashley Mangum, Director of Kids’ Mental Health Pierce; Aleesia Morales, Co-Director of the HOPE program; Cassie Hallstone, Co-Director of the HOPE program; Dee A. Sonntag, Tacoma Municipal Court Judge; and Drew Ann Henke, Tacoma Municipal Court Presiding Judge.                                 

“There is no question that our nation is facing a mental health crisis and it’s a priority for me to not only strengthen federal investments in mental health at the national level but to support the important work happening on the ground in communities like Tacoma,” said Murray. 

“It’s going to take all of us—working together at every level of government—to make real progress when it comes to providing the kind of mental health care our communities need,” Murray added. “I’ll be taking the stories and perspectives from today’s discussion back with me to the Other Washington as I negotiate our spending bills for this year and fight to protect our investments in mental health.”  

In contrast to the extreme cuts proposed by House Republicans, Murray fought hard to strengthen funding for mental health in the Senate funding bills for Fiscal Year 2024 that passed out of committee—Murray is currently working to protect federal investments in mental health as she negotiates final FY24 government spending bills with her colleagues in the Senate and House. 

“We are working to get upstream and prevent the mental health crisis before it happens. By funding fully integrated healthcare for kids and families, we begin to change the trajectory one story at a time,” said Joe Le Roy, CEO of HopeSparks.

“Imagine a world where every child has access to a care team from day one, that includes a mental health professional, that is what we are doing here. We cannot thank Senator Murray enough for her investment in this life saving work,” Le Roy added.

“In the past few years, we have seen how critical it is to ensure a wide range of mental and behavioral health resources are available for our community,” said City of Tacoma Deputy Mayor John Hines. “I am proud of our work in Tacoma to ensure our residents have access to these types of resources— especially during moments of crisis—because I believe that they promote well-being, accountability, and safety.”

Hines continued, “Like many other cities across our country, we have shown we are committed to greater focus on how we can best support mental and behavioral health. At the same time, we recognize we cannot do it alone, and look forward to working together with our state and federal partners.”

In her role as former Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Murray kick-started a legislative initiative last Congress and 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.

Murray led negotiations on the health package and passed it into law as a part of the omnibus spending package for Fiscal Year 2023, which was signed into law in December 2022. Among other things, the bipartisan legislation Murray negotiated and passed into law:

  • Strengthens the new 988 lifeline;
  • Supports screening and treatment for maternal mental health and substance use disorders;
  • Builds and maintains the mental health and substance use disorder workforce;
  • Understands and addresses mental health challenges kids are dealing with;
  • Bolsters suicide prevention work and states’ opioid crisis response efforts;
  • Increases access to substance use disorder treatment and overdose reversal medication;
  • Provides better support to Tribes’ efforts to address mental health and substance use disorders.

As former Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee (LHHS), Murray secured significant funding increases in the Fiscal Year 2023 spending bills 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.