The following was distributed today by SEIU Healthcare 1199NW:
OLYMPIA (Dec. 1) — Nurses, healthcare workers, and mental health workers assembled at the State Capitol today to call for revenue to protect healthcare services and ask legislators which side they’re on: the 99% that protects vulnerable patients and working families, or the 1% that protects tax breaks for Wall Street banks and corporations.
Nurses and healthcare workers, members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, marched from the Governor Hotel to the Capitol with members of the Washington Federation of State Employees, and this afternoon they will meet with legislators and testify at the 3:30 p.m. Senate Ways & Means Committee hearing.
The nurses, healthcare and mental health workers are calling on legislators to raise revenue to protect the vulnerable patients and clients they serve. Facing more cuts to healthcare, including the proposed elimination of Basic Health, Disability Lifeline, and drastic cuts to community mental health care funding, more patients and clients will be left without access to healthcare and on the streets. Ward closures at Western State Hospital have already overwhelmed local emergency rooms like Harborview Medical Center with psychiatric patients, and additional closures will pack an already jammed mental health system.
“Budget cuts in mental health services, especially reduced services at Western State Hospital, are having destructive results. One of our long-time clients isn’t getting the care he needs in outpatient community mental health, and he was found wandering around and not eating. Our settings aren’t designed to treat clients like him who need more supportive care, and more psychiatric care than we can offer. We’re at a bottle-neck for space, and this puts our communities in greater danger,” said Nancy Clark, a Case Manager at Compass Health.
“If we lose access to chemical dependency services, our patients will be released prematurely without any community resources. Our clients will have to wait months for treatment, and many will relapse, reoffend, and lose their housing in the meantime,” said Emily Savoie, a Housing Case Manager at Catholic Community Services.
“Since the closure of wards at Western State Hospital, we’ve seen an increase in psychiatric patients being boarded in our emergency department. Not only does this slow treatment for other patients, it also prevents these psychiatric patients from getting the care they need, and many spend their entire 72 hour detainment in our emergency department. They aren’t receiving treatment from trained psychiatric staff, and often spend several days restrained to a gurney,” said Kristie Dimak, a Registered Nurse at Harborview Medical Center.
“We cannot cut healthcare any longer,” said Kurt Ofsthus, a social services coordinator at NAVOS Inpatient Services. “It is time for revenue, and it’s time to close tax breaks on wealthy corporations and Wall Street Banks. The rich need to pay their fair share. The crowds at the capitol are sending a clear message that people come first, and it’s more than just words on our signs – it’s lives on the line.”