The WCAAP has been fortunate to work with legislators that have been instrumental in making Washington a better place for children. We thought you might like to get to know a few of them, so we’ll be publishing profiles in Developments periodically this year. First up: Senator Sharon Brown.
Senator Sharon Brown was appointed to her seat in the state Senate in 2013, won re-election in 2014, and has served as the 8th district’s senator ever since. A resident of Kennewick, the mother of five has not always been in government and previously worked as an attorney. She was inspired by her children to seek elected office after they heard her complaining about a lawsuit the city was involved in. “One of my kids said ‘Mom what do you always tell us? Quit complaining and do something about it!’” says Brown. “So I threw my hat in the ring and ended up becoming mayor pro tem of the city.”
Washington’s 8th district encompasses the Tri-Cities, which means Brown represents diverse interests, from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to a huge agricultural base. And the area is changing at light speed – Tri-Cities has been the fastest-growing region in the state for the past several years.
Brown will be the first to tell you that she’s best able to serve the community effectively if she hears directly from her constituents, like WCAAP trustee Thatcher Felt, DO, FAAP. Brown and Felt worked together in 2017 to pass Senate Bill 5779, which requires the Health Care Authority to review payment codes related to behavioral health and adjust payment rules to facilitate integration of behavioral health into primary care. “The most rewarding part of this job is being able to work with people like Dr. Felt,” says Brown. “I’m not a medical doctor; I don’t see patients every day. Dr. Felt brought certain things to my attention that I was then able to bring to other legislators’ attention about access to mental health care. It sent a very strong message to legislators from across the state that access to mental health care is important.”
Brown hopes to continue working on improving children’s mental health in the 2018 session. “I hope to continue my efforts with Dr. Felt to see if there are any other areas we want to be working on,” she says. “Youth suicide prevention is right up there.” Her other priorities include anti-human trafficking legislation and economic development – both issues of importance to the 8th district.
Brown has a message for pediatric health care providers. “Please approach your legislators! If you see something that’s not working out – whether it’s health care-related or not – please contact us,” she says. “But for Dr. Felt I would never have known there was such a barrier to access mental health care. Our doors are always open!”