Advocacy Update: 2022 Session Ends on a High Note!

Happy Sine Die! For those who are not knee-deep in legislature lingo, that’s Latin for “without a day” and signifies the end of the legislative session. Once again, this year we are celebrating significant wins for kids, families, and pediatric providers in Washington, and as usual we have YOU to thank! WCAAP members from 34 of Washington’s 49 legislative districts stepped up in many ways:

  • Attending Tuesday morning legislative committee meetings
  • Keeping up with our weekly updates and sending messages to legislators via our Action Alerts
  • Meeting directly with legislators and staff
  • Testifying on bills
  • Attending Advocacy Day
  • Sharing your stories and providing a glimpse into the real challenges families face, and the barriers clinics deal with in trying to provide care
  • Offering advice on legislation, to make it the best policy possible
  • Serving on community coalitions and legislative work groups
  • Writing Op-eds, speaking to the media, and raising awareness about our issues on social media

All of these efforts combined allow WCAAP to leverage our network and amplify your voices – and that is the secret to our success.

Major Wins for Behavioral Health: Our Top Priorities

The final supplemental operating budget includes $2M in funding for a two-year program for Community Health Workers for children and families in primary care. DOH and WCAAP will work with community health workers and community agencies on a pediatric-specific curriculum to train and establish the Community Health Workers role for kids and families. We will also rely on the leadership of our WA-CHIP First Year Families steering committee and the Behavioral Health Integration Subgroup that we co-chair for their guidance on development of this role.

The budget also includes $2M in funding for primary care clinics to build behavioral health integration for children and families. This funding will be distributed as one-time grants to help clinics take the steps necessary to establish integrated behavioral health for children and youth. As WCAAP member Francie Chalmers shared, this support will be vital to get behavioral health integration off the ground: “I can speak specifically to my experience with a four-year-old integrated behavioral health program at an independent pediatric clinic in Skagit County. Funding was a huge barrier at the beginning but thanks to a variety of funding resources, most importantly the North Sound ACH, the program has grown from a single social worker struggling to meet patient demand to a more robust and integrated team of two social workers and an integrated care assistant who in part functions as a resource manager. The need for these services has rapidly increased, especially since early 2020, and now that they have a team solidly in place, they are having a very significant impact.” Now more clinics across the state will be able do this work!  Dr. Chalmers adds that being able to bill to support kids’ mental health in primary care is essential going forward, in order to keep programs sustainable.

This is just the beginning, and we know there is significant work to be done in the coming months to ensure that the implementation of these investments matches our vision and truly meets clinics’ needs. We will share updates as things progress.

But that’s not all…

Here are more successes from this session, including several championed by individual WCAAP members:

Kids’ Mental Health:

  • A statewide strategic plan to address kids’ mental health
  • Investments in partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs for kids
  • 7% increase for Behavioral Health Centers
  • Funding for the Perinatal Support Warm Line
  • Provider training in assessment and diagnosis of mental health and developmental disorders in infancy and early childhood
  • Additional funding for Infant and early childhood mental health consultation
  • Funding for the Washington Mental Health Referral Service for Children and Teens to expand capacity

School-based Health:

  • More school nurses and counselors in the “prototypical school” formula
  • Continuation of the program that provides free lunches to all children in a school where 40% of students qualify for free and reduced meals
  • Grants for more BH clinicians in schools
  • Support expansion of School Based Health Centers

Access to High Quality Care:

  • Continuous enrollment in Apple Health for kids ages 0-6
  • Updated Apple Health’s periodicity schedule to match Bright Futures
  • Donor breast milk coverage
  • Increased pediatric Medicaid dental reimbursement rates
  • Ability for unaccompanied homeless youth to consent for health care
  • Directing the state to measure, report on, and progress toward increasing the proportion of statewide spending on primary care to 12%
  • Medical evaluation coverage for suspected victims of child abuse

Support for Family Financial Well-Being:

  • Diaper subsidy for families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) with a child under the age of three
  • TANF extensions for those who hit the 60-month time limit
  • Working Families Tax Credit
  • Increased number of full day slots in early childhood education program, and additional part day program slots for summer 2022

Community Health & Safety:

  • Tobacco prevention funding: $5 million in the budget
  • Reducing methane emissions from landfills
  • Restrictions on high-capacity firearm magazines
  • Restrictions on firearms in certain locations