Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Home page

DBHR Update

April 2014

Director's Note

By DBHR Director, Chris Imhoff


Help for those affected by the Oso mudslide: DSHS/DBHR is coordinating help for those experiencing emotional distress at this difficult time.  For support and referrals please contact the Volunteers of America Hotline at 1-800-584-3578. 

For general information, help with basic needs, or to volunteer for the information line, please call 211.  Our condolences go out to all those affected by this tragedy.


Adult Behavioral Health System Task Force

The first meeting of the Adult Behavioral Health System Task Force (2SSB 6312) was April 22.  For details and to sign up for notices of future meetings visit http://www.leg.wa.gov/jointcommittees/ABHS/Pages/default.aspx.   


2014 Legislative Session Overview

When the 2014 session adjourned on March 13, DBHR staff had analyzed 215 proposed bills related to behavioral health services and issues. Here is a summary  of behavioral-health legislation that passed.


Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Tuesday that the makers of the flavored alcoholic beverage Four Loko have agreed not to market their alcoholic drinks to young adults.  Ferguson was one of 20 state attorneys general who accused Phusion Products of advertising to the underage.

The agreement prohibits the company from promoting binge drinking and from advertising on college campuses.  Phusion has also agreed to stop producing drinks that combine alcohol and caffeine.

Four Loko originally contained both alcohol and caffeine, but the company removed caffeine from the formula after Washington state banned the drink in 2010. That ban came after nine Central Washington University students became ill after drinking Four Loko at a party.  Read more ...

Help recognize consumer/peer leaders and television and film professionals who educate the public about behavioral health. Their work and personal stories of resilience demonstrate that people with mental and/or substance use disorders can and do recover and lead meaningful lives.

If you know of a consumer/peer leader who has made outstanding contributions in all of the following areas, please nominate that person for a 2014 Voice Award.

  • Personally demonstrated that recovery is real and possible.
  • Led efforts to reduce the discrimination and misperceptions associated with behavioral health problems.
  • Made a positive impact on communities, workplaces, or schools.

Similarly, if you know of a television or film production that aired in a public setting after April 15, 2013, which contains a positive behavioral health story line, please nominate it for a 2014 Voice Award.
All nominations are due by Friday, April 18.

The 2014 theme is the behavioral health of young adults and their experiences in dealing with mental and/or substance use disorders. Special consideration will be given to young adults, as well as consumer/peer leaders who educate about the needs of young adults to seek services and supports that enable recovery.

The number of retailers in Washington illegally selling tobacco to minors is high for the second year in a row. An annual report that tracks illegal sales shows about 15 percent of tobacco retailers sold tobacco to minors in 2013 — that’s about the same as it was in 2012. As recently as 2009 the rate was much lower, at about 9 percent.

“It’s unacceptable that more than one in seven retailers in our state illegally sells tobacco to minors,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “Stopping youth from buying tobacco is one of the best prevention tools we have. It only works when retailers follow the law. They must do better. The health of Washington’s youth is at stake.”

Youth who smoke are more likely to smoke as adults and die prematurely from a smoking-caused disease. They are also more likely to have other challenges such as poor grades and illegal drug use. About 85 percent of Washington adult smokers start at or before age 18.  Read more...

In response to the recent legalization of recreational marijuana, The Colorado Department of Transportaion  launched a new education campaign on marijuana impaired driving. Click here for campaign materials.

This May, Drug Courts throughout the country will once again celebrate National Drug Court Month by holding graduations and special community events. This month is designed to show the collective impact of Drug Courts, DWI Courts, and Veterans Treatment Courts. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Drug Courts.  For resources to raise awareness about the benefits of drug court, visit the NADCP resource center.

National Prevention Week is a SAMHSA-supported annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues. This observance is powered by communities nationwide that host prevention-themed events to:

  • Increase the visibility of behavioral health and the benefits of prevention.
  • Provide a forum to educate the public.
  • Create opportunities for networking and collaboration.

If you're already planning a prevention event for this year, consider connecting it to National Prevention Week 2014. Capitalize on the momentum and exposure of this national movement. Haven't started planning your event? It's not too late! SAMHSA provides planning tips and tools to help you organize a prevention-focused event in your community.

Oxford House Allows People to Experience Many Firsts

By Kasandra, a resident of a Washington Oxford House

Oxford House helped me save my life.  I have had the chance to experience so many “firsts” thanks to living in an Oxford House for the last year and a half.  I learned how to be self-supporting, how to keep a job, how to drive, and how to be an active member of society. 

I have also had the opportunity to travel across the country for the first time to be a part of the 2013 Oxford House World Convention in Washington, D.C.  That experience was definitely the most exciting and interesting thing I have done so far.  I am so grateful for my first chapter sending me. 

Attending the World Convention solidified my passion for Oxford House.  I had the opportunity to hear other member’s experiences, strengths, and hope from all over our country and even other parts of the world.  I learned so much in the variety of panels and general sessions I attended, and felt proud to bring that information back to my chapter.  It was amazing to see how huge our Oxford House family is.  I felt an overwhelming sense of fellowship throughout the entire convention.  All in all, it was a great experience and I look forward to attending the 2014 Convention in Portland, Oregon!

Another important mental health reform gets delayed

Cut in funding could close county detox center

Seattle Times Editorial: Integrate MH with primary care

Liquor privatization has reshaped youth alcohol perceptions

New mental health program for kids to cost nearly $40M a year

Mental health services to expand July 1

State to boost care for Medicaid youths

Feds knock how state administers mental health services

Feds make hash of state's mental health system

Feds put state's mental health system in jeopardy

Special report: boarding the mentally ill

Heroin use spikes in young adults, UW report says

Will state budget make mental health “boarding” crisis worse?

Help Washington state teens have a graduation to remember

Notable gains on mental health in state legislature

Medicaid improved mental health for uninsured

Town hall about underage drinking

State's mental health reform focuses on preventive care

Get kids mental health care instead of sending to juvenile courts

Legislature heeds call for mental health reform

Pot more popular than cigarettes

State survey on kids' attitudes toward pot, thoughts of suicide

Experts warn effects of drinking impact us faster as we age

Can mental health treatment help halt gun violence?

Bill tackles alcohol poisoning among underage drinkers

Painful tales of mental illness spur lawmakers to action

Government Agency Feels Brunt of Increased Gun Permit Applications

The Consequences of Mixing Energy Drinks and Alcohol

Bring Mental Illness Out of the Shadows

Mental health funds sought as help falls short

Time to Overhaul Washington State's Broken Mental Health System

New Plan to Avoid ER Visits Could Save State $31 Million

Changing How We Talk About Mental Illness

Prevent Active Duty Military from Committing Suicide

We need to nurture young brains

March:  Washington's Attorney General Confirms Cities Can Ban Marijuana Businesses. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has issued a Formal Opinion indicating that cities and counties can formally or effectively ban a marijuana business from their jurisdiction.  The state Liquor Control Board is not yet sure how this opinion will change the implementation of Initiative 502.  For future updates on I-502, vist www.liq.wa.gov.

February:  Fewer people in Washington died from prescription pain medication overdoses between 2008 and 2012, after an eightfold increase in the last decade. The overdose death rate dropped by 27 percent and the number of deaths went from 512 in 2008 to 388 in 2012; this was tempered by an increase in heroin deaths, which rose from 146 in 2008 to 231 in 2012.  Read more...

February:  SAMHSA’s newly-released publication, Behavioral Health, United States, 2012, the latest in a series of publications issued by SAMHSA biannually since 1980, provides in-depth information regarding the current status of the mental health and substance abuse field. It includes behavioral health statistics at the national and State levels from 40 different data sources.

February:  Two new publications, A Parent's Guide to Preventing Marijuana Use, and Marijuana: Know the Facts, are available at www.learnaboutmarijuanawa.org.  These and other resources will help you join the conversation that teens are already having, and be a source of accurate information

January:  SAMHSA recently launched Start the Talk, an interactive, online simulation tool that helps parents and caregivers of children ages 9 to 15 practice tough conversations about alcohol.