In July 2018, the Department of Health took on the licensing and certification of more than 1,000 behavioral health agencies and programs. These included problem gambling, opioid treatment programs, and others. The shift is part of a goal to transform oversight of behavioral health care programs in Washington and integrate them with other health care services.
Integrating behavioral and physical health recognizes that both are equally important. As one of the state agencies with responsibilities for both, patient safety and ensuring access to care are our top priorities. We’re using our experience over the past year to help us improve.
Recapping our efforts
We have worked hard over the last year to provide quality services. Some of our efforts include:
- Improving practices — Adding staff from the Department of Social and Health Services who did this work before helped us to learn a new line of business. We used their expertise to develop a more integrated oversight model for behavioral health facilities. The new approach coordinates inspections and improves report writing. This ensures a consistent, transparent process for providers and minimizes disruption to care.
- Building relationships — We’ve strengthened partnerships with behavioral health providers, meeting with leaders and stakeholders to hear successes and challenges. Our partners in this work have included state and federal agencies, as well as Washington Tribes.
- Protecting patients — We formed a new office to align compliance activities for all physical and behavioral health facilities. The Office of Health Systems Oversight has focused on assessing systems so rules are consistently applied. We’ve also taken enforcement action when needed against providers and facilities who put patients at risk.
A strong commitment to continuous improvement
We’ve identified several opportunities to help ensure people in Washington get the care they need, when they need it, by credentialed professionals in safe facilities:
- Improving healthcare provider education — We can better support providers by making it easier for them to understand requirements.
- Improving data transparency — It should be easy to find and use information about facilities and providers of behavioral health services. While much of this information is currently available by request, we’re committed to making it available online.
- Improving our licensing technology — A project to modernize aging technology is well underway. The new technology will help consumers locate a specialized provider in their area or track the status of a complaint. Provider benefits include automated reminders for license and other renewals.
- Continuing our engagement with partners and the public — We’re working with other agencies to implement new laws from the 2019 legislative session. Following that work, we’ll conduct a broader review of rules for behavioral health agencies and facilities. We’re also committed to learning from stakeholders about their needs and expectations, both through the rule-making process and in general.
Washington has too few services for people who need behavioral health care and the need is increasing. Patients and families deserve competent behavioral health caregivers and facilities that protect health and safety. Connect with us and learn more about our work and plans in the field of behavioral health.
The above is aggregated content from the Washington State Department of Health. The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its contents and encourages our readers to verify any information they find may be overly biased or questionable.