CBC member Richard Moses testifies to subcommittee, issues Tribes’ support

OLYMPIA – The Washington Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee held a hearing on SB-6258 and SB-6259, two bills that look to address suicide and addiction issues for tribes within the state, Jan. 31.

According to committee staff, SB-6258 would “direct the Indian Health Advisory Council to draft recommended legislation to address Indian Health improvement needs including crisis coordination between Indian healthcare providers and the state crisis system.”

The bill further “contains intent language stating the legislature intends to address the suicide and addiction crisis among American Indians and Alaskan Natives impart by allowing Indian healthcare providers to share in Medicaid and non-Medicaid funding that supports the statewide community behavioral health system and community crisis system, by strengthening coordination between the behavioral system and Indian health providers and recognizing tribal sovereignty,” according to committee staff.

Reading from written testimony, CBC member Richard Moses testified that the Colville Tribes sought aid when the tribe had experienced “clusters of suicides” in 2001, 2013 and 2018.

“Key indicators in our data show tribal members who are at high risk of suicide, requiring higher levels of care, are not being admitted into hospitals,” said Moses. “Recognizing the sovereign authority of tribes and establishing the governor’s Indian Health Advisory Council as a lead in drafting and recommending crisis coordination legislation is key to getting appropriate services that would include prevention, early intervention, intervention and post-vention. Often times, tribes experience lengthy delays in accessing the services of a designated crisis responder.”

Also according to committee staff, SB-6259 would “require the health care authority to negotiate with the Center for Medicaid and Medicaid Services to provide federal funding for behavioral aid services that would see behavioral health workers within Indian healthcare providers to be supported with up to 100 percent federal funding.”

The bill further has “a provision for Indian health care providers to share in grants that the Health Care Authority makes to community behavioral health programs in the statewide crisis system and it also allows designated crisis responders to be appointed by the Health Care Authority in consultation with tribes and Indian health care providers to provide designated crisis responders services on tribal lands.

The bill also “provides that an Indian tribe must have exclusive jurisdiction over the involuntary commitment of an AI/AN person to an evaluation or treatment facility that is located within the boundaries of the tribe and that commitment would be handled by tribal courts unless the tribe consents to current state jurisdiction or expressly declines to exercise jurisdiction.”

Language within SB-6258 notes in Washington state in 2016, the drug overdose death rate for tribes within the state was three times higher than the national average for American Indians and Alaskan Natives, and the suicide mortality rate is more than one and four-fifths times higher than the rate for non-American Indians and Alaskan Natives. 

“Indian health care providers need to be among the entities eligible to receive available resources for the delivery of behavioral health services. Indian Health Care providers assessments must be taken into consideration to ensure that a patient is receiving culturally competent care,” said Moses. “With tribes taking a lead on drafting crisis response legislation, I’m confident these issues will be appropriately addressed.”

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