Helping to Meet our Members’ Greatest Professional Challenge

Sarah Rafton, MSW
Executive Director, WCAAP

In the spring, you shared your top professional challenges with WCAAP in our member survey. The greatest professional challenge facing our members today is effectively supporting kids’ behavioral health, ranking as the number one challenge for 70% of survey respondents. I am writing to share a window into some of WCAAP’s work to improve kids’ access to behavioral health care.

On Tuesday, September 28th, WCAAP member Annie Hoopes, MD, FAAP, joined school nurses and the School Nurses Organization of Washington (SNOW) to speak with the Senate committee on behavioral health about the behavioral health needs of kids today. Annie shared the collaboration she has with school nurses and the daily supports school nurses provide – from helping in the moment when children or teens experience a panic attack, to initiating emergent help for students’ acute suicidal ideation, to helping ensure students with eating disorders are well supported at lunch times.

Annie’s testimony and that of our school nurse partners was highly impactful – painting a picture for our policy makers of the gravity and scope of kids’ needs today and the deep dedication of under-resourced schools and school nurses. Annie’s involvement in this work session is a powerful example of the many ways WCAAP members are dedicating themselves to advance investments for more timely and effective behavioral health support for children and youth.

WCAAP board members Bob Hilt and Thatcher Felt, and WCAAP member Larry Wissow hold seats on the legislatively appointed Children & Youth Behavioral Health Work Group (CYBHWG) and are held in the highest regard by state legislators and agency leaders for their expertise in how to improve kids’ mental health. All are active on multiple subgroups of the CYBHWG. In addition, WCAAP board member Sheryl Morelli and WCAAP members Phyllis Cavens and Mary Ann Woodruff are consistent and impactful participants in subgroups of the CYBHWG, including the Behavioral Health Integration, Prenatal to 5, and Rates and Workforce Subgroups. I have the honor of co-chairing the Behavioral Health Integration Subgroup with parent advocate Kristin Houser, and WCAAP staff Amber Ulvenes, Devon Connor Green, Edna Maddalena and Tatiana Sarkhosh are active participants and contributors to the subgroups. Tatiana’s recent work documenting the start-up costs and activities for behavioral health integration has been instrumental in our work to increase BH integration in primary care.

Our member and staff involvement supporting policy development and system reform, and our strong partnerships with community mental health agencies, like HopeSparks and Catholic Community Services, key state agency leaders and allied organizations, like SNOW and Partners for Our Children, are adding up to significant momentum to transform behavioral health care for children and youth in Washington.

WCAAP’s 2022 legislative priorities are in a strong position to advance as CYBHWG priorities for the upcoming session and we are also advocating for state investment in a complete and thorough strategic plan and visioning for what children in Washington need and deserve for behavioral well-being and behavioral health care.

Please join us in our advocacy for kids’ behavioral health! Join a meeting with your local legislator(s). Join our legislative committee or sign up to receive action alerts on your phone.

I know I speak for all our staff and board in thanking you for what you are doing each day to support kids’ behavioral health – please know we are working to make change on a large scale for kids.