Champions for Youth Summit: Fostering Connection and Collaboration

Colleen McCarty, MPH, Program Manager

WCAAP’s Champions for Youth Steering Committee gathered together on November 29th, 2023 for an in-person summit to discuss the group’s goals and focus for the upcoming year. Since its formation in 2019, Champions for Youth has brought together individuals from primary care, schools, public health, health plans, and community-based organizations to collaborate on opportunities to improve family, child, and teen wellbeing. The group’s main focus areas are child and teen mental/behavioral health and immunizations.

The November summit brought together over 30 participants from across sectors to strengthen connections with one another, learn about successful care coordination models in Washington State, hear youth perspectives on health priorities, and develop agreements on what the committee wants to accomplish in 2024 and beyond.

The group heard from guest presenters Erin Wick and Eric Bruns about the Association of Educational Service Districts (AESD) Statewide Behavioral Health Student Assistance Program, which expands school-based behavioral health prevention and intervention services and utilizes Student Assistance Professionals (SAPs) to assist students in need of more focused supports. Leslie Graham, licensed pediatric social worker at the UW Kent Des Moines Clinic, and school counselors Alec Forsyth and Lisa Reasner also presented to the group and discussed the importance of relationship building between schools and primary care, sharing examples of how their partnership has helped them better support kids and families and get them connected to appropriate supports.

One of the highlights of the day was a panel discussion with four youth and young adult participants, who shared about the health issues of priority to them and what they wish adults understood about youth/young adult health. Panelists also shared ideas on the best ways for health information to be shared with youth and families, noting that sharing information through social media or posters in places where youth spend significant time are effective, and that parents may benefit from workshops or information from trusted sources at schools.

I had the honor to be part of the Youth Panel at the WCAAP Champions for Youth Summit. I could see the passion of all the attendees and their keenness to improve health conditions among youth. I also loved seeing the wide variety of occupations represented there like insurance companies, primary care providers, behavioral health specialists, researchers, and the department of health. Overall, this was a great platform to share thoughts and ideas on adolescent and young adult health and leave with the comfort of knowing I was heard!

Koumudi Thanda, Youth Panelist, University of Washington Public Health Student, Youth Voice Intern with the Department of Health

These presentations sparked great discussion amongst the summit participants and helped the group narrow in on specific goals for the Champions for Youth Committee to address. Improved communication and collaboration between primary care clinics and schools came through as a clear area of need, with the group emphasizing the importance of funding of roles such as community health workers or SAPs to fill that need. The group also expressed a desire for improved communication infrastructure, with complicated and time-consuming health forms and lack of contacts at schools and clinics being identified as particular challenges.

Looking ahead, the group expressed interest in continuing these conversations at the statewide level with other major players from pediatrics and education. Additionally, advocacy for the resources and funding needed to support school-clinic partnerships, such as funding CHW or SAP roles, is needed to increase access to adequate resources for children and families. The committee looks forward to supporting these efforts and identifying examples of successful partnerships that can be shared across the state.

WCAAP would like to extend a huge thank you to all committee members and guests from the summit, and to Amerigroup for its generous support of the event. If you are interested in learning more about Champions for Youth, please contact Colleen McCarty at cmccarty@wcaap.org.