Even before the pandemic, the State’s mortality rate from overdose and suicide fatalities was high and increasing. This has only been further exacerbated from the pandemic – the mental and behavioral health needs of our communities have increased in magnitude and complexity. As public health shifts to address the community impacts of the pandemic, a comprehensive strategy to address the individual and community need for behavioral health interventions is needed. One area of community intervention is the use of fatality reviews.

HB 1074 allows local health jurisdictions to establish an Overdose and Fatality Review Team. These teams are multi-disciplinary, pulling together public safety, healthcare, pharmacy, housing, mental health, elected officials, businesses, and more. Teams can review overdose and suicide deaths to understand better where community interventions could have been better utilized in prevention. In turn, this information can help develop or implement community-based strategies to prevent death or injury from overdose or suicide.

The legislation is mirrored after the process and requirements for child death reviews – an existing strategy that several communities use to understand and prevent child death and injury. HB 1074 does not mandate the establishment of these teams but authorizes local health jurisdictions to convene and implement this team. Many counties and communities have identified behavioral and mental health as a health priority through local community health assessments – so this could be a strategy adopted by communities that have recognized this need for their community.

Should local health implement a team, the bill further provides confidentiality, data access, and organizational participation requirements.

The bill does not provide funding for implementing these teams; however, this work does fall under the foundational public health services definitions.

HB 1074 is a resurrected bill from the 2021 Legislative Session and has bi-partisan support in sponsorship. It moved swiftly and unanimously out of the House this year and is scheduled for a hearing this upcoming Tuesday in the Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee to Health and Long-Term Care. WSALPHO will be testifying in support of this bill.