2023 Legislative Agenda
Our communities face mounting economic, political, and social pressures. Demand for dispute resolution services continues to rise. Yet DRCs with proven capability to resolve conflict are still significantly underfunded, with insufficient operating support to be fully responsive to these increasing needs and when emergent crises arise.
Resolution Washington and the state's 21 Dispute Resolution Centers (DRCs) are here to help. DRCs facilitate communication and dispute resolution that:
Supports equitable access to justice;
Preserves and repairs relationships;
Resolves disputes effectively with self-determination; and
Promotes civility and compassion.
Leaders face tough challenges to develop responses and administer ongoing program needs during the 2023-2025 biennium that address the needs of Washingtonians today.
Resolution Washington requests the Legislature maintain its investment in the wellbeing of communities statewide by equipping DRCs with:
$17.2M in general operating support for the 2023-25 biennium to support core dispute resolution services, training and statewide access to justice: $7.1M in FY24 and $10.1M in FY25
$15M in program support for the 2023-25 biennium to maintain DRC eviction prevention and housing stability capacity: $7.5M annually in FY24 and FY25
Prioritize equity and access to justice
Washington’s 21 Dispute Resolution Centers (DRCs) strengthen equity in dispute resolution through the provision of free or affordable community-based mediation and training statewide, including trauma-informed services supporting housing stability, family stability, and youth and community restorative practices.
Stable, sufficient operating funding for DRCs ensures Washingtonians statewide have access to low- or no-cost dispute resolution services, empowering individual decision-making while reducing burdens on courts and other agencies. Stable core funding also ensures DRCs are ready to add special programs as needed to help the State meet critical needs, such as housing stability.
Eviction Prevention and Housing Stability Recommendations Summary
Continued investment in DRC housing stability work supports eviction prevention and reduction of court dockets, while providing access to justice to all community members. Both Eviction Resolution Pilot Program (ERPP) type mandatory early dispute resolution services and voluntary services are crucial in stabilizing housing as we move from crisis response to long-term, ongoing management of housing challenges.
Additionally the Legislature should invest in affordable housing, rental assistance, and pre- and post-filing legal aid.
Prioritizing Equity and Access to Justice
Resolution Washington and the DRCS are committed to championing policies, practices, and services that advance equity, dismantle poverty, address systemic racism, and support housing stability through our work, including developing and implementing equity-focused mediation training, and through the work of our partners who share these objectives.
Resolution Washington is Washington's association of nonprofit Dispute Resolution Centers (DRCs) that leverage a comparatively tiny portion of the state budget and significant volunteer resources to deliver cost-effective conflict resolution services across the entire state. In 2020 Resolution Washington directly served 59,689 residents including 2,915 youth in communities across the state, providing access to services regardless of ability to pay in accordance with RCW 7.75. 2020 was a challenging year for the DRCs as service providers and for the people they serve.
Resolution Washington is committed to equal justice for all marginalized community members and supports people of color and low-income residents in having access to equitable opportunities statewide.
Resolution Washington is a partner of the
Historical Commitment with the State
It is the role of the Legislature to “stimulate the establishment and use of dispute resolution centers to help meet the need for alternatives to the courts for the resolution of certain disputes” (RCW 7.75.010 (2)(a)).
The state Legislature established a framework for DRCs in 1984 to provide a high-quality resolution alternative for many types of disputes. DRCs “meet the needs of Washington’s citizens by providing forums in which persons may voluntarily participate in the resolution of disputes” (RCW 7.75).
Through this statute, DRCs provide mediation, mediator training & certification, and public education. DRCs provide relief to Courts throughout the state by mediating disputes where the participants can settle, reducing docket sizes and wait times while allowing the Courts to focus on those cases requiring their attention.
Through other funding sources, DRCs also provide additional services. We tailor our programs to meet the needs of the local communities, including restorative practices work with schools, at-risk youth programming, homelessness prevention, collaborations with tribes, and community facilitation.
Resolution Washington member DRCs currently serve the entire state. Several of our DRCs are on the brink of survival, struggling financially despite provision of valuable service to courts, public institutions and communities. They have managed to survive thus far only due to the heroic dedication of their very limited staff and committed volunteers, but they cannot meet the full mandate in this manner.
Without increased financial support those struggling DRCs will be forced to reduce public access to these resources set by statute. That would prevent DRCs from meeting the full breadth of current and future needs for the state and local communities.
In 1997, 18 centers reported that they collected $1,044,858 in court filing fee revenue from Counties throughout the state. In 2019, 21 centers reported $679,257 from this revenue stream. In 1997 dollars, the 2019 revenue is equivalent to $426,362. DRCs are now receiving 59 percent less revenue in than they did in 1997, adjusted for inflation. The fees are paid by local residents filing cases in Court and are highly variable by County from year to year.
Historical Commitment with the State
We empower people across sectors for effective, long-term solutions.
Conflict occurs at every level of society, and it can either strengthen or destroy relationships. Our 21 member DRCs across the state equip individuals, groups and organizations to manage conflict, improve relationships and support a culture of understanding and effective problem-solving.
All our member DRCs provide these core services:
Mediator training & certification
Our DRCs also tailor services to meet local needs through a variety of programs including:
Family and elder services
Because we are embedded in communities across the state, our work reflects local needs. We bring together people with diverse viewpoints and interests to address issues like:
At-risk youth and families
Community and planning disputes
We convene communities to resolve our most difficult issues.
We bring together people with diverse viewpoints and interests to solve problems like homelessness, reentry, and more. Because we are embedded in communities across the state, our work reflects local needs.
STORIES THE DATA DOESN'T TELL... The following are a few highlights of solutions we helped facilitate in the communities we serve:
Mediator Acts as a Lifeline for Landlord and Tenant Negotiating Arrears
FULCRUM INSTITUTE DISPUTE RESOLUTION CLINIC | SPOKANE
The landlord wants to negotiate a rent repayment plan for the 4 months’ rent the tenant owes, while facing his own mortgage arrears on the rental property. The laid-off tenant has no money at present to negotiate a repayment plan, yet needs to make a good faith effort in order to avoid eviction when the moratorium is over. Both tenant and landlord are drowning in debt, the unknown, and the constantly shifting tides of orders, extensions, rent assistance, and stimulus checks. The mediator is on the end of the line, listening, keeping the channel of communication open between landlord and tenant, helping them find a way forward, even if just to maintain goodwill and hope for now, a lifeline in a rising river.
Building Trust and Coalition with Covid-19-Impacted Latino Community
DISPUTE RESOLUTION CENTER OF GRAYS HARBOR & PACIFIC COUNTIES | ABERDEEN
An out-of-work Latino father sold the tools of his trade to pay his back rent, afraid if he didn’t the family would be evicted and deported. Others in the Gray’s Harbor Latino community went without utilities and food, distrustful and unaware of their rights under the eviction moratorium. There was also naivete about Covid-19 protocol, endangering their lives. The two Spanish-speaking staff at Gray’s Harbor who had been weaving a web of trust within the Latino community for years, widened that web to include other community agency partners, becoming a conduit of communication and coalition that is mitigating the distrust and misinformation, and increasing the number of Latinx people who now feel safe and sound in their homes.
Participants Surprised by their Unconscious White Bias
SIX RIVERS DISPUTE RESOLUTION CENTER | KLICKITAT & SKAMANIA COUNTIES
The covert bias class participants were suddenly silent; the slow awareness of their own unconscious insults hanging in the air. “I had never realized complimenting a black woman about her hair could be taken as a racial insult,” one student shared. She now was beginning to understand how this singling out was an act of further separation for someone whose people had experienced centuries of segregation and abuse. The all-white participants were facing their own racism before leading a public dialogue on escalated racist and violent happenings, each becoming themselves the change they wished to see.
Recovering Mother and Daughter Heal their Broken Relationship Through Parent Teen Mediation
WHATCOM DISPUTE RESOLUTION CENTER | BELLINGHAM
Mom’s drunken behavior had finally driven a wedge between her and her daughter. The daughter now lived with dad who entered the family into parent-teen mediation to heal the rift. The mediators helped open channels of communication between mother and daughter, giving the daughter to safely share her thoughts, and draw healthy boundaries, and the mother a place to admit her remorse and love for her daughter. Covid-19 restrictions created another barrier, but mediators helped the two find their way to weekly, distanced walks at their old childhood park, where together they took small steps toward trust again.
We provide a framework for more cooperative communities.
Our present level of civil discourse is not so civil. The public rhetoric is filled with blame and “us versus them” sentiment. In the state of Washington, we have an opportunity to step forward and offer a vision of what cooperation and collaboration could look like. Resolution Washington is doing this work at the local level through our community-based DRCs and is available to collaborate on these issues at the state level.
With the investment of the state Legislature, we can continue to lay the foundation of conflict resolution and civil discourse that our communities, state and nation so desperately need right now.