Dufault bill for Toppenish mental health facility

TOPPENISH, WA - A measure sponsored by Rep. Jeremie Dufault that would allow the Astria Toppenish Hospital to open a 10-bed psychiatric care facility gained unanimous approval today in the Washington State House of Representatives.

The hospital had planned to open the mental health facility at the beginning of this year. However, it was delayed because the default state-reimbursement rate would force Astria Toppenish Hospital to operate at a loss for up to two years until the rate could be adjusted to match the actual cost of maintaining the facility.

“Unfortunately, the doors have not opened and the patients have not begun receiving care because of a wrinkle in the way that the reimbursement rate is calculated for new psychiatric care facilities in our state,” Dufault explained on the House floor. “This measure represents an investment in improving mental health care in rural Washington.”

House Bill 1534 would immediately increase the current reimbursement rate – $711.55 per day to $1,050 per day – which is the median rate being paid to other rural hospitals providing psychiatric care in Washington.

“Toppenish is in the heart of my district. My father was a letter carrier there for 10 years. I spent many days there,” added Dufault, R-Selah. “There is nothing more I would like to see than mental health clients receive care in their community and close to their support networks.”

It was the 15th District freshman's first bill to be passed from the House. After the vote was taken, Dufault was congratulated by his colleagues on the House floor.

The measure now goes to the Senate for further consideration. If the bill passes the Legislature and is signed into law by the governor, Dufault expects the mental health facility to open as soon as early spring.

PHOTO: Rep. Jeremie Dufault, R-Selah, is congratulated by fellow lawmakers for passing his first bill. House Bill 1534 would change reimbursement rates and allow for the opening of a mental health facility in Toppenish.

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