SB 5525

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

As Reported by Senate Committee On:

Higher Education, February 7, 2017

Title: An act relating to veterans' mental health services at institutions of higher education.

Brief Description: Concerning veterans' mental health services at institutions of higher education.

Sponsors: Senators Wilson, Palumbo, Cleveland, Baumgartner, Zeiger, O'Ban, Liias, Frockt, Schoesler, Hobbs, Kuderer, Conway and Bailey.

Brief History:

Committee Activity: Higher Education: 2/02/17, 2/07/17 [DP-WM].

Brief Summary of Bill

  • Requires four-year institutions to hire mental health counselors to work with military personnel, veterans, and their families.


Majority Report: Do pass and be referred to Committee on Ways & Means.

Signed by Senators Wilson, Chair; Bailey, Vice Chair; Palumbo, Ranking Minority Member; Frockt.

Staff: Evan Klein (786-7483)

Background: Veteran Supportive Campuses Certificate Program. In 2009, the Governor and state agencies jointly signed a Partners for Veteran Supportive Campuses Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to support veteran-related education goals. On November 21, 2014, the Governor and state agencies signed an updated version of the MOU.

Under the MOU, college campuses, including community and technical colleges, may apply for a Partner for Veteran Supportive Campus Certificate. The certificate acknowledges the schools' commitment to support post-secondary education for veterans.

Mental Health Counselors. A mental health counselor is someone who applies principles of human development, learning theory, psychotherapy, group dynamics and etiology of mental illness and dysfunction behavior to individuals, families, groups or organizations, for the purpose of treatment of mental disorders and promoting optimal mental health functionality. Mental health counselors must have a master's or doctoral level degree in mental health counseling, and have completed state examination requirements and a minimum of 36 months of full-time supervised counseling.

Summary of Bill: Subject to appropriation, the six 4-year public institutions of higher education in Washington must employ at least one full-time mental health counselor with experience working with active members of the military or military veterans.

Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Available.

Creates Committee/Commission/Task Force that includes Legislative members: No.

Effective Date: Ninety days after adjournment of session in which bill is passed.

Staff Summary of Public Testimony: PRO: There are over 5000 veterans in Washington. These veterans sacrifice their lives for this state and this country. This bill would help address the unique issues that veterans face when entering back into civilian life. These mental health counselors can assist veterans with crisis interventions and reintegration into campus life. Central Washington has had an 855 percent increase in its veteran population since 2009. This measure is targeted, timely and essential for CWU's veteran community. Having a counselor on campus opens a simple communication line between veterans and a healthcare professional without extensive wait times. Having an accessible person on campus will help veterans get treatment and access resources easily. Universities are currently falling short in helping veterans and their families. Mental health services at the VA can be difficult to arrange, and do not help with accessibility issues for student veterans. Students have to miss class to get assistance through the VA. Putting mental health services for veterans on campuses will reduces missed classes by students and will set students up for success.

Persons Testifying: PRO: Senator Lynda Wilson, Prime Sponsor; Antonio Sanchez Ph.D., Central Washington Univeristy; Michael Scott, student; Harper Peterson, citizen; Elizabeth Oestreich, UW Student Veteran; Thomas Haymaker, UW Student; Colleen Rust, The Evergreen State College.

Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying: No one.