Letter from Olympia

Senator Hans Zeiger 25th District Letter from Olympia

Letter from Olympia

Dear Neighbor,

This has been a busy week at the Capitol. We are spending time in Senate committees hearing bills that passed the House, while the House is hearing bills that passed the Senate. I have also had a number of meetings in my office. A hot topic this session has been the rise of drug addiction and mental illness, which is linked in many cases to homelessness. With record revenue projected for our 2019-2021 budget, I believe that we need to make effective drug treatment and mental health our top priority for new spending in our budget this year. More on this issue below.

Legislative pages

This week, Bhargav Iyer from Puyallup served as a page for the Washington State Senate at the Capitol here in Olympia. I was glad to sponsor him and he did an excellent job. He took his role in public service very seriously and exceeded all expectations.

Bhargav, a ninth-grader at Kalles Junior High, was one of 23 students who served as a Senate page for the 10th week of the 2019 legislative session.

The Senate Page Program provides an opportunity for Washington students to spend a week working at the Legislature. Students transport documents between offices, as well as deliver messages and mail. Pages spend time in the Senate chamber and attend page school to learn about parliamentary procedure and the legislative process. Students also draft their own bills and engage in a mock session.

news conference

Click above to watch the Senate Republican Caucus news conference on homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness

Homelessness, drug addiction, and mental illness

Recently, lawmakers have been hearing a lot from the public about the crisis of drug addiction and mental illness that is afflicting thousands of Washingtonians. Every family and community is impacted by this crisis in some way. We cannot ignore our state’s drug addiction and mental health crisis.

Here are three things that I would like to see out of this legislative session. First of all, as lawmakers, we need to acknowledge this situation and the unmistakable link between drug abuse, mental illness and the challenge of homelessness. We need to discuss these issues openly and honestly and examine how we provide drug treatment when people come into the criminal justice system. We can and must use our legislative committees to raise these issues and deepen our understanding of the policy changes that are needed.  

Secondly, we need to continue the push for policy reforms and smart investments. In recent years, legislators of both parties have worked to strengthen behavioral health policies and promote housing options for low-income families who are at risk of homelessness, and we must continue this work.

Members of the Senate Republican Caucus have introduced a number of bills this session to strengthen mental health and drug treatment, move people from homelessness to self-sufficiency and promote the supply of affordable housing for low-income families. My Pierce County colleague Senator Steve O’Ban is pushing for a guardianship program to get help for people experiencing drug addiction. He’s also working to expand behavioral health peer-to-peer support. Senator John Braun of Lewis County is working to expand mental health facilities in communities throughout the state. Senator Sharon Brown of Tri-Cities has taken the lead on legislation to expand the behavioral health workforce and provide tax incentives for facilities offering behavioral health treatment. I introduced a bill to help individuals experiencing homelessness find jobs that would allow them to move toward self-sufficiency. 

Finally, I have high expectations for the state budgets that are about to be released. In a time of record revenue, we can prioritize mental health and drug treatment and make a real difference for our communities without having to raise taxes. We are faced with a drug addiction and mental health crisis that demands our undivided attention. We must make effective treatments a priority.

Contact Me

As always, I value hearing directly from you. If you would like to contact me, please call, email and again, stop by if you’re in Olympia.

Email: Hans.Zeiger@leg.wa.gov

Phone: (360) 786-7648

Thanks for the privilege of serving as your state senator.

All the best,