Press Release: WA State Legislative Wins

Kailey Fiedler-Gohlke, MA, CRC, Chief Executive Officer

Apr 26, 2021

New initiatives approved by Washington Legislature put care in the lead for responding to mental health emergencies

VIEW PRESS RELEASE: WA State Legislative Wins


As the U.S. looks to reform policing, care response to mental health calls is a key way to prevent violence, save lives and insure that people get the help they need.


SEATTLE — Several key investments and legislation were approved by the Washington State Legislature this session that will position care response as a key model for responding to emergency calls that can escalate into violent and deadly confrontations.


“Too often when we send law enforcement to respond to mental health emergencies, they result in violent conflicts,” said Kailey Fiedler-Gohlke, MA, CRC, chief executive officer of HERO House NW. “These new investments help create an alternative, where we send care responders, rather than police, to handle these calls and have a dedicated alternative call number from 911.”


HERO House operates three Clubhouses in the Seattle area. Clubhouses are an innovative community-based model that supports people living with serious mental illness step out of the shadows of social isolation and join a community that works with them to identify and achieve their goals, while supporting basic needs such as healthcare and housing.


The need for alternatives is urgent, Fiedler-Gohlke said. According to a journal review of the Washington Post's officer-involved shootings database, at least 1 in every 4 people killed in an interaction with law enforcement has a serious mental illness.


“Police are being asked to do jobs they were never intended to do, including responding to people who have mental health needs,” Fiedler-Gohlke said. “These investments will help insure that people with mental illness are responded to more safely, by peers and people with medical training.”


Legislation and funding approved by the Legislature includes:


  • HB 1477, which creates a statewide “988” hotline and a comprehensive behavioral health crisis response system. Having a separate number from 911 for such emergencies helps ensure care response teams made up of health and mental health professionals and peers can attend appropriate calls and assist people having a mental health crisis.

  • Funding to increase local behavioral health mobile crisis response team capacity and to ensure each region has at least one adult and one children and youth mobile crisis team that is able to respond to calls coming into the 988 crisis hotline established through HB 1477, for better access to treatment sources. ($38.579M)

  • Funding for co-responder grants - including non-law-enforcement first responders - to communities throughout the state to ensure that a mental health practitioner is on the team of personnel responding to an emergency involving a person experiencing behavioral health crises. ($2M)

  • Funding of a Blue Ribbon Commission to be appointed by Gov. Inslee to look at the intersection of the criminal justice and behavioral crisis systems. ($300K)


“These policies and allocations create and expand programming that will help people immediately, as well as help us build to a future where we can respond to all mental health emergencies in a caring, appropriate way that treats people safely and with dignity,” FiedlerGohlke said. “It’s also a positive and hopeful response to all the tragedies we’ve seen in recent years and the call to make changes in law enforcement responses.”


HERO House is working with its national partner, Fountain House, as part of a multi-state campaign to pursue community-crafted, innovative, care response alternatives that address emergency mental healthcare with a mental health-first approach.


“Fountain House is proud to partner with HERO House and other Clubhouses around the country and their members to build a movement for care response. These initiatives in Washington are a model for the nation and a huge win for people in the state who live daily with the challenges of serious mental illness, including risks that come along with law enforcement responses to mental health emergencies,” said Mary Crowley, Chief External Affairs Officer at Fountain House. “We envision a future in which mental health emergencies are treated as the health emergencies they are with support from culturally competent mental health professionals and peers, and prevented with community-based models such as Clubhouses. Washington has made significant strides in both these areas.”


Fountain House, based in New York City, is where the Clubhouse model originated 73 years ago, and has since been replicated in 200 jurisdictions around the country, including HERO House.


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HERO House NW comprises three Mental Health Clubhouses in Bellevue, Everett and Seattle, and uses a psychiatric rehabilitation model that focuses on socialization and community engagement. Every participant, known as a “member,” of the Clubhouse program, has a voice in the running of their Clubhouse. Clubhouses create a safe space where members living with mental illness can step out of the shadows of social isolation and reintegrate into society by becoming gainfully employed, pursuing an education, and obtaining stable housing. https://www.herohousenw.org/