First Approach Skills Training (FAST) and Referral Assist Program Updates

Sarah Nau, MSW

One of the Chapter’s advocacy priorities during the 2023 session earlier this year was focused on addressing the behavioral health crisis for children and teens. One solution WCAAP helped champion, resulting in a legislative “win” for our state was to increase funding for Washington’s Mental Health Referral Service for Children & Teens and the First Approach Skills Training (FAST) program.

A tremendous amount of work has transpired in the relatively short time since the increase in funding was approved by the legislature, and we would like to showcase some of those efforts:

FAST Program Highlights

  • Professionals representing 70 WA primary care clinic locations have been live-trained to date, with more live trainings on the schedule for this fall.
  • Partnerships have now begun with a number of community mental health organizations and the UW SMART Center to support professionals offering brief mental health services in schools and other community settings.
    • Some of these organizations have been waiting years to access FAST training—only now with our successful advocacy for renewed funding is training, consultations, and support available.
  • Four new printable posters with QR codes have been created that can be hung in clinics and other public settings (one for parents, one for teens, available in both English and Spanish). The QR codes take families and youth directly to action-oriented educational handouts.
  • Nearly 1000 professionals have viewed the FAST program’s freely available online clinical training videos (now representing more than 36 states and 3 countries), and conversations with academic partners at a number of institutions (UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Rochester, Rady Children’s Hospital, etc.) include collaborative efforts regarding data collection on FAST roll-out and outcomes.

Referral Assist Highlights

  • With funding now available, the Referral Assist Line has been considered “fully staffed” since September, with the new staff members currently training up into managing caseloads.
  • Two days a week a Spanish-speaking referral specialist is dedicated to completing intakes in Spanish and doing follow-up calls with families in Spanish—without the need to engage interpreter services—resulting in positive feedback from families who appreciate this experience more.
  • The Referral Service partnered with 211 to exchange education about each other’s program scopes, met with the Office of Behavioral Health Advocacy to discuss referral coordination issues, and has met with UW Forefront and SCH suicide prevention program about how to help after a suicide in the community.
  • A new system was devised to decrease response burden on community providers and speed up the referral connection process.
    • A link to an Availability Survey is emailed every 2 weeks to ask about current availability, which is then available as a report that can be used to find a best fit (skill sets, profile preferences, location, insurance types, etc.) without having to re-contact that provider.

We are grateful to all those who advocated for these services this year, and who continue to advocate for additional supports to address the behavioral health crisis. It is wonderful to see the results of those efforts making an impact for children, teens, and their families.

For more information about the FAST program, please visit their site. Information about the Referral Assist Line can be found here.