Roberts thankful for opportunity to serve 21st Legislative District citizens

Feb 28, 2014
Courtesy of: Washington State House Democrats State Rep. Mary Helen Roberts announced her retirement this weekend after five terms in the 21st District.

This past weekend, at a series of town hall meetings, Rep. Mary Helen Roberts announced that she will not seek re-election to the Washington State House of Representatives.

Roberts, who is on her fifth term in the Washington Legislature, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to work side by side with 21st District citizens and community leaders for the past 10 years she served as their state representative.

“While the 21st District is diverse in many ways, our families share most of the same values and goals: safe and strong communities, quality education for our children, accessible health-care, a clean environment, and economic vitality,” said the Lynnwood Democrat.

“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made together in these and other areas, and am deeply grateful for the confidence and trust that people placed in me.”

During her tenure in the House of Representatives, Roberts served on committees that addressed issues relating to higher education, labor, children and human services, justice, and public safety.

Over the past decade, she focused her efforts on improving the lives of children, youth and working families by establishing policies that take into account individual circumstances instead of relying on cookie-cutter procedures.

One of her main concerns is that the state’s prisons are overcrowded with people who would likely have a higher chance of reforming somewhere else. To address the issue, she worked with law enforcement agencies and youth advocates to establish alternatives to incarceration.

“It’s not just that we’re running out of room, it’s also about realizing that there are other options to putting people behind bars that can bring about better outcomes,” Roberts explained. “Giving flexibility to law enforcement and the courts to direct someone to appropriate services may be the difference between getting juveniles on the right path, or having them recycle through the criminal justice system.”

To this end, she successfully shepherded legislation to:

Ensure young offenders are tried in juvenile, instead of adult court and that their records can be sealed under specific circumstances.

Take individuals with mental disorders who commit non-felony offenses to triage facilities instead of jail.

Expand diversion options for youth with mental health disorders so they can get treatment.

Roberts acknowledges that in carrying out its constitutional duty to provide a good education for all kids, the legislature cannot just focus on what goes on in the classroom.

“We know hungry or sick children can’t learn, and kids who have gone through abuse and neglect, or whose families are in crisis, also struggle in school. That is why we must continue improving our foster care system and advancing laws that help families stay together. The more support and stability children have, the better their chances to succeed in school.”

With Washington children’s wellbeing in mind, Roberts sponsored measures that address those issues by:

Requiring agencies to adopt policies and programs to assist children with incarcerated parents, while allowing the courts to make individualized decisions regarding these children, and give families a better chance of staying together.

Improving educational outcomes for students in foster care.

Helping youth in foster care transition into adulthood by extending their Medicaid coverage and support services until they are 21.

Facilitating contact between siblings while youth are in foster care, as well as post adoption.

“These 10 years have been both rewarding and exhausting. I'm looking forward to being more involved in my local community, and spending more time with family, friends and my cats,” added Roberts.

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