Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Home page

DBHR Update

July 2014

Director's Note

By DBHR Director, Chris Imhoff


Governor Inslee and Agency Leaders Announce Health and Safety Measures Prior to Marijuana Stores Opening


On June 24th Governor Inslee announced measures that state agencies are taking to ensure public safety and to protect youth, in preparing for the opening of retail marijuana stores in July.  Governor Inslee stated during the news conference that keeping marijuana away from teens will be a top focus.  News stories of the announcement appeared in the Seattle Times and the New York Times.


The DSHS Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR) has partnered with state and community organizations to reach parents, caregivers, and youth with information about the risks of underage marijuana use, and the new laws.  As part of our long-term, ongoing support of community-based efforts to prevent substance abuse among teens, we have created a Toolkit for Preventing Underage Marijuana Use, with a variety of information about the risks, and ways to help teens make healthy choices. The Toolkit includes instructions for ordering free copies of the parent guide and 502 information card for your community.  DBHR has provided hard copies of the toolkits to our 52 Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative coalitions. OSPI will distribute to schools in the fall.


The state Department of Health has launched radio and online ads, in English and Spanish, to encourage parents to get the facts and talk with their kids about marijuana, before stores open in July.  The radio ads are narrated by physicians at Seattle Children's Hospital.  The ads will run through August.  Listen to the ads at www.LearnAboutMarijuanaWA.org.

In its 25th year, Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental and substance use disorders. This year’s theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Speak Up, Reach Out,” encourages people to openly speak up about mental and substance use disorders and the reality of recovery, and promotes ways individuals can use to recognize behavioral health issues and reach out for help. Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.

Stakeholders and the general public are welcome to attend monthly task force meetings concerning state purchasing of mental health and chemical dependency treatment services, and redesigning behavioral health care services.    

For details and notices of upcoming meeting dates, visit: http://www.leg.wa.gov/JointCommittees/ABHS/Pages/default.aspx.

Every day, 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers in the U.S. Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills, according to a new Vital Signs report. Health care providers in some states prescribed far more painkillers than those in other states. Higher prescribing of painkillers is a serious problem because it is associated with more overdose deaths.  Read more...

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announces its latest entry in the Treatment Improvement Protocol (or TIP) series. The newest TIP highlights the importance of preventing alcohol-exposed pregnancies and recognizes the unique needs of individuals in treatment who may have been exposed to alcohol before birth. Read more...

A free smartphone application created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) makes it easier for behavioral health responders to focus on disaster survivors by providing them quick access to resources for getting help.


The SAMHSA Disaster App was designed to meet the needs of disaster responders.  It was developed with input from experts from across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross, and state health departments.  The app is available for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry users.  Read more...

From Coverage to Care is a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services initiative to help people with new health care coverage understand their benefits and connect to primary care and the preventive services that are right for them, so they can live a long and healthy life. We encourage you to share these resources with consumers, and help them on their journey from coverage to care. We also hope you share information about local resources during your conversations, to help individuals know where and how to access care in your community.  Read more...

The number of retailers in Washington illegally selling tobacco to minors is high for the second year in a row. An annual report that tracks illegal sales shows about 15 percent of tobacco retailers sold tobacco to minors in 2013 — that’s about the same as it was in 2012. As recently as 2009 the rate was much lower, at about 9 percent.

“It’s unacceptable that more than one in seven retailers in our state illegally sells tobacco to minors,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “Stopping youth from buying tobacco is one of the best prevention tools we have. It only works when retailers follow the law. They must do better. The health of Washington’s youth is at stake.”

Youth who smoke are more likely to smoke as adults and die prematurely from a smoking-caused disease. They are also more likely to have other challenges such as poor grades and illegal drug use. About 85 percent of Washington adult smokers start at or before age 18.  Read more...

DSHS/DBHR is coordinating help for those affected by the Oso landslide. For support and referrals, contact the Volunteers of America Hotline at 1-800-584-3578.  For general information, help with basic needs, or to volunteer for the information line, call 211.  

Oxford House Allows People to Experience Many Firsts

By Kasandra, a resident of a Washington Oxford House

Oxford House helped me save my life.  I have had the chance to experience so many “firsts” thanks to living in an Oxford House for the last year and a half.  I learned how to be self-supporting, how to keep a job, how to drive, and how to be an active member of society. 

I have also had the opportunity to travel across the country for the first time to be a part of the 2013 Oxford House World Convention in Washington, D.C.  That experience was definitely the most exciting and interesting thing I have done so far.  I am so grateful for my first chapter sending me. 

Attending the World Convention solidified my passion for Oxford House.  I had the opportunity to hear other member’s experiences, strengths, and hope from all over our country and even other parts of the world.  I learned so much in the variety of panels and general sessions I attended, and felt proud to bring that information back to my chapter.  It was amazing to see how huge our Oxford House family is.  I felt an overwhelming sense of fellowship throughout the entire convention.  All in all, it was a great experience and I look forward to attending the 2014 Convention in Portland, Oregon!

High priority as pot stores open: safety, especially for kids

Washington prepares for marijuana retail sales

Liquor privatization: did the fears come true?

After 2 years of private liquor sales, spirits everywhere, but not cheap

Legislature should find the will to fund teen marijuana use prevention

Medical-marijuana loophole allows teens to get pot

A reprieve in Washington's drug treatment crisis

Local governments will pay more for patients' detox

Mental health task force starts up

Medicaid rates pinch treatment centers

Raise tobacco buying age to 21

Obamacare's Drug Problem

Editorial: Reject Pot Scare Tactics

FDA Moves to Regulate E-Cigarettes

Time running out to fix state's drug treatment "crisis"

Another important mental health reform gets delayed

Funds to aid mentall ill come with limits

Cut in funding could close county detox center

Editorial: In Yakima Valley and statewide, a deficit of mental health care

Health care reform enters phase 2

Seattle Times Editorial: Integrate MH with primary care

Feds drop demand that could privatize mental health care

Liquor privatization has reshaped youth alcohol perceptions

New mental health program for kids to cost nearly $40M a year

Mental health services to expand July 1

State to boost care for Medicaid youths

Feds knock how state administers mental health services

Feds make hash of state's mental health system

Feds put state's mental health system in jeopardy

Special report: boarding the mentally ill

Heroin use spikes in young adults, UW report says

Will state budget make mental health “boarding” crisis worse?

Help Washington state teens have a graduation to remember

Notable gains on mental health in state legislature

Medicaid improved mental health for uninsured

Town hall about underage drinking

State's mental health reform focuses on preventive care

Get kids mental health care instead of sending to juvenile courts

Legislature heeds call for mental health reform

Pot more popular than cigarettes

State survey on kids' attitudes toward pot, thoughts of suicide

Experts warn effects of drinking impact us faster as we age

Can mental health treatment help halt gun violence?

Bill tackles alcohol poisoning among underage drinkers

Painful tales of mental illness spur lawmakers to action

Government Agency Feels Brunt of Increased Gun Permit Applications

The Consequences of Mixing Energy Drinks and Alcohol

Bring Mental Illness Out of the Shadows

Time to Overhaul Washington State's Broken Mental Health System

New Plan to Avoid ER Visits Could Save State $31 Million

Changing How We Talk About Mental Illness

Prevent Active Duty Military from Committing Suicide

We need to nurture young brains


  • Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Tuesday that the makers of the flavored alcoholic beverage Four Loko have agreed not to market their alcoholic drinks to young adults.  Ferguson was one of 20 state attorneys general who accused Phusion Products of advertising to the underage.  The agreement prohibits the company from promoting binge drinking and from advertising on college campuses.  Phusion has also agreed to stop producing drinks that combine alcohol and caffeine. Four Loko originally contained both alcohol and caffeine, but the company removed caffeine from the formula after Washington state banned the drink in 2010. That ban came after nine Central Washington University students became ill after drinking Four Loko at a party.  Read more ...
  • FDA Approves Hand Held Injector to Reverse Opioid Overdose.  Opioid overdose deaths, driven largely by prescription drug overdose deaths, are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States - surpassing motor vehicle crashes. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the number of drug overdose deaths had steadily increased for more than a decade.  Read more: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders


  • Educational Resources for Mental Health Month:  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about one in five American adults experienced a mental illness in 2012.  Unfortunately, less than half received any mental health services.  The top three reasons given for not receiving help:  they could not afford the cost, they thought they could handle the problem without treatment, or they did not know where to go for services.  To help increase understanding about mental health conditions, and treatment and recovery resources, SAMHSA has developed a planning guide for Community Conversations about Mental Health in English and Spanish.
  • Another opportunity to educate families and other community members is Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, May 8th.  DBHR staff will participate in a program on La Nueva Radio to raise awareness about mental health conditions and how to access services. 
  • National Prevention Week is May 18-24.  National Prevention Week is a SAMHSA-supported annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues. SAMHSA provides planning tips and tools  to help you organize a prevention-focused event in your community.
  • 2014 Legislative Session Overview.  When the 2014 session adjourned on March 13, DBHR staff had analyzed 215 proposed bills related to behavioral health services and issues. Here is a summary  of behavioral-health legislation that passed.April: 
  • The first meeting of the Adult Behavioral Health System Task Force (2SSB 6312) was April 22.  For details and to sign up for notices of future meetings visit http://www.leg.wa.gov/jointcommittees/ABHS/Pages/default.aspx


In response to the recent legalization of recreational marijuana, The Colorado Department of Transportaion  launched a new education campaign on marijuana impaired driving. Click here for campaign materials.


Washington's Attorney General Confirms Cities Can Ban Marijuana Businesses. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has issued a Formal Opinion indicating that cities and counties can formally or effectively ban a marijuana business from their jurisdiction.  The state Liquor Control Board is not yet sure how this opinion will change the implementation of Initiative 502.  For future updates on I-502, vist www.liq.wa.gov.


  • Fewer people in Washington died from prescription pain medication overdoses between 2008 and 2012, after an eightfold increase in the last decade. The overdose death rate dropped by 27 percent and the number of deaths went from 512 in 2008 to 388 in 2012; this was tempered by an increase in heroin deaths, which rose from 146 in 2008 to 231 in 2012.  Read more...
  • SAMHSA’s newly-released publication, Behavioral Health, United States, 2012, the latest in a series of publications issued by SAMHSA biannually since 1980, provides in-depth information regarding the current status of the mental health and substance abuse field. It includes behavioral health statistics at the national and State levels from 40 different data sources.
  • Two new publications, A Parent's Guide to Preventing Marijuana Use, and Marijuana: Know the Facts, are available at www.learnaboutmarijuanawa.org.  These and other resources will help you join the conversation that teens are already having, and be a source of accurate information


SAMHSA recently launched Start the Talk, an interactive, online simulation tool that helps parents and caregivers of children ages 9 to 15 practice tough conversations about alcohol.