Our 2023 legislative agenda is available now! This document reflects our top priorities for the 2023 session to advance health equity and improve health. We will also weigh in on bills that impact child, adolescent, and family health and well-being as they are introduced as “support items.”
Address the behavioral health crisis for children and teens
Children and adolescents in every community in Washington State are struggling with behavioral health issues, and our health care system – at every point along the care continuum – is not meeting the need. We risk significant long-term impacts to children and adolescents’ health, their academic success, and ability to have positive relationships unless we take meaningful steps now.
- Fund the Partnership Access Line (PAL) and the Washington Mental Health Referral Service for Children and Teens to:
- Provide First Approach Skills Training (FAST) for counselors in primary care and behavioral health centers, ensuring language and cultural sensitivity.
- Increase the Referral Service’s FTE to keep pace with community demand.
- Support psychiatrists’ time to provide case reviews and consultation for10 primary care clinics at one hour / week.
- Increase reimbursement rates for behavioral health counseling on Apple Health.
- Fund loan repayment and conditional grants to help retain and attract an adequate behavioral health workforce.
- Support families with children with developmental disabilities, including autism, sooner in community-based settings to prevent avoidable crises and hospital care.
Improve child health and readiness to learn with daily access to healthy food
One in six children in Washington State faces hunger, and in some parts of our state the rate is as high as one in four (Source). According to the Washington State Food Security Survey (UW, WSU, 2021), one-third of households with children had low or very low food security, and about half of all households with children relied on food assistance in 2020-2021.
Provide funding to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to provide free school meals to all children in Washington State.
- Children who eat school meals consume a healthier diet overall than those who do not. (CDC)
- Eating breakfast at school is associated with better attendance and better test scores. (No Kid Hungry, CDC)
- Hungry children are more likely to have to repeat a grade, exhibit behavioral problems in the classroom, and suffer from anxiety and depression.
- Providing free school meals for all children is a proven way to eliminate barriers and stigma for children to get the food they need for healthy growth and development. (Hopkins)
- The American Academy of Pediatrics supports healthy school meals for all students, regardless of income eligibility, to ensure no children go hungry and to eliminate both the cost barrier to struggling families who do not currently qualify, and the stigma associated with free meals. (Source)
Ensure our system of juvenile justice is appropriate to kids’ development
Our understanding of neuroscience has evolved, and we know that young people’s brains are still developing in young adulthood (18-25), yet children as young as age 8 can be charged with a crime in juvenile court in Washington state. The American Academy of Pediatrics (2020) recommends legislation that establishes a minimum age of (at least) 12 years old for criminal responsibility under which a person may not be charged with a crime. Incarceration can cause harm and rather than serve a deterrent effect, can actually increase the likelihood of future offenses (National Juvenile Justice Network).
Pass “Raise the Age” legislation.
- Increase the minimum age of juvenile prosecution from age 8 to over age 13.
- Study the upper limit of juvenile justice system involvement and age at which youth should be prosecuted as adults.
Other issues we support
We work closely with allied stakeholders on many issues during the legislative session and year-round. You can view a list of bills we are helping with during the 2023 session here: Support Items. Please note this list is constantly evolving – we will do our best to keep the linked list up to date!
Get Involved! Learn more about advocacy.