Washington Legislature convenes and includes mandatory suicide prevention training

  |   Legislative

The Washington State Legislature convened on Monday, January 13 for a 60-day legislative session. By the end of the first week, almost 1,000 bills have been introduced for consideration. The focus of the first three weeks will be consideration of these bills in the policy committees. Included in the introduced bills are:

HB 2411 – Suicide prevention training

Last month, the WSVMA was contacted by Rep. Tina Orwall (D-33rd) who expressed her concern about the mental wellbeing of veterinarians and voiced her intent to include the profession in legislation that would require suicide prevention training. Veterinarians would join physicians, nurses, counselors and other human health professionals who are already required to obtain a one-time mandatory training.

The WSVMA, including legislative advocate Greg Hanon and former chair of the WSVMA Wellness Committee, Dr. Carrie La Jeunesse, engaged with Rep. Orwall on a number of challenging issues mandatory training would present.

First and foremost, veterinarians have brief or limited contact with clients, unlike human health professionals who must be trained to recognize when their patients are at risk. Their six hours of training required by statute focuses on suicide assessment, treatment, and management which doesn’t apply to veterinary practice.

Rep. Orwall amended the language to instead require three hours of training for veterinarians focused on mental health and wellbeing, recognizing signs for ourselves, our colleagues or co-workers who may be at risk or experiencing substance use problems, self-harm, or mental/behavioral health issues. A side benefit is that it will aid veterinarians in recognizing an at-risk client, and while not required, it might help them intervene and potentially save a life.

Curriculum content, once developed, will include suicide risk, prevention, and resourcing, along with specific content on imminent harm by lethal means. Once the bill passes, training would have to be completed in 2022 and will apply to professional development CE credits.

Given that veterinary technicians are at the same level of risk as veterinarians, the Washington State Association of Veterinary Technicians has elected to be included in the bill.

In light of the challenges for the profession, which have been well documented in recent studies and anecdotal reports, and because Rep. Orwall addressed the majority of our concerns, the WSVMA is supporting House Bill 2411.

The bill will be heard in the Committee on Health Care and Wellness on Wednesday, January 22.

HB 2317 – Amendments to animal cruelty statutes

House Bill 2417 amends animal cruelty statues and makes various changes to the provisions of law concerning animal welfare, consequences for Animal Cruelty and related criminal offenses, and changes related to the regulation of dogs and abandoned animals.

Greg Hanon testified Thursday on a portion of the bill that mandates anesthesia for tail docking, ear cropping and devocalization procedures as well as a new definition of pain and suffering. The testimony was well received by the bill proponents.


Posted January 17, 2020