mental health

  OLYMPIA, Wash. – Health care advocates are pushing Washington state lawmakers to keep up momentum toward expanding access to Medicaid. About 100 people rallied on the Capitol steps in Olympia Thursday. They argue one group that will especially benefit is people with mental illness.

John Ryan / Northwest News Network

The Tea Party has become a fixture in American politics. But the Sanka Party? Not so much. Other than an interest in hot beverages, the two activist groups have little in common. The Sanka Party got started last summer near Tacoma, Wash., in the unlikeliest of places: inside the walls of the state’s largest psychiatric institution.

SALEM, Ore. – One of the most influential state lawmakers in Salem wants Oregon to make what he calls a “game-changing” investment in community mental health services. Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney proposes a dedicated tax or fee to cover the expense.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, fewer than half of adults who need mental health treatment actually get it. The number is even lower for young people.

Shootings Push Mental Health Into Spotlight In Salem

Jan 23, 2013
Photo by Steve Morgan / Wikimedia Commons

Recent mass shootings in Oregon and Connecticut have thrust mental health issues into the spotlight. Some Oregon lawmakers and mental health advocates hope there's enough momentum to keep the conversation front and center. Unlike gun control, there is a consensus that appears to be emerging on funding mental health programs.

Little information is available yet to conclude whether the shooter in Newtown, Connecticut was diagnosed with or treated for mental illness. But last week’s incident has raised questions around the country about mental health--specifically, funding for mental health treatment and services. Ruby de Luna looks at how Washington’s mental health services have fared over the years.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

  The Oregon Lottery spends millions of dollars a year to prevent gambling addiction. But some Oregon lawmakers say that effort has been ineffective. Now, a legislative committee may force the Lottery to hire someone to coordinate its anti-addiction efforts.

Photo by John Ryan / Northwest News Network

One Washington state senator says it is past time for lawmakers to increase safety at the state’s two psychiatric hospitals. Paige Browning reports Senator Mike Carrell announced he will propose legislation in the coming term.

A patient was found dead early Tuesday at a psychiatric hospital in eastern Washington, leading to the arrest of patient in the same unit. The woman in custody is suspected of murder.

Photo by John Ryan / Northwest News Network

Western State Hospital, near Tacoma, is the largest psychiatric institution in the Pacific Northwest. Its mission statement says the hospital--

Actor: "provides a healing environment free from danger, fear, hurt, injury, coercion, or intimidation for people with psychiatric disabilities. … Through vigilant attention and effort, WSH ensures a safe haven."

One week in April, Western failed to live up to those words, and the consequences were dire. Attention was less than vigilant, and two patients wound up dead. In part one of our public radio investigation, KUOW's John Ryan reported on the case of one of those patients. She committed suicide. In part two of our investigation, John looks at the safety improvements Western has, and hasn't, made since April.

Photo by Suzanne Kuhns

In the past decade, a dozen Western State Hospital patients have killed themselves. More than a hundred others have tried. Megan Templeton was the most recent. In April, she hanged herself in her hospital room. She had turned 20 the day before. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults in Washington.

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