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Cascade Mental Health Care to Host Fifth Annual Legislative and Governmental Forum

The Chronicle - 12/11/2018

Dec. 11--Cascade Mental Health Care is set to host its Fifth Annual Legislative and Governmental Forum, with a panel of local legislators and a new "town hall" style.

"We're asking organizations, if they want to participate, to forward a couple questions that they can ask the legislators or government officials," said Richard Stride, chief executive officer of Cascade Mental Health Care. "... People who sign up will be able to give a short blurb about their agency and ask questions of the panel about things that are upcoming in the legislative session."

The panel is set to include State Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia); State Reps. Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis), Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama); Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund, Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza; and Centralia City Council member Peter Abbarno. State Senator Dean Takko (D-Longview) as well as State Representatives Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen) and Brian Blake (D-Longview) may also be on the panel, Stride said.

This is the first year legislators will have time to answer constituents' questions.

"The agencies would get up and talk about their organization and some of their needs and concerns and issues, but the panel wasn't given a chance to address them," Stride said. "... It was something that the legislators said they wanted -- more time to talk about the issues and talk about things that are on their radar."

Stride said he began this event in 2013, after he learned local politicians knew very little about how Cascade operated, unless they had a friend or family member with mental health issues. Last year's forum was the largest yet, with just under 100 people in attendance.

"It was something that I felt was necessary for our local legislators to be aware of," Stride said. "Some of the behavioral health issues we're facing in Lewis County, they may not be aware of other agencies that may need some help or guidance with what they're doing. Most of the time, in my experience, legislators were concerned with some of the (bigger-picture) issues, but they weren't honed in on behavioral health."

Cascade requested that organizations attending the forum submit two to three questions by Dec. 11. Organizations could direct their questions to one panel member, or the entire panel. At the end of the forum, there will be roughly 15-20 minutes for people to ask questions that were not previously submitted.

The questions should focus on behavioral health or social-services-related issues, what the organization is doing and what the organization would like panel members to help them achieve in Olympia.

"I developed a forum to give them, and us, and other agencies in town a chance to talk to them directly so, when there is legislation that comes across their desk, they can keep behavioral health in mind," Stride said.

Cascade's Fifth Annual Legislative and Governmental Forum will take place 3-5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 18 in Cascade's Community Room, located at 2428 W. Reynolds Ave. in Centralia. Snacks and beverages will be provided.


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