Michael Barsotti, MD, FAAP
2021 has proven to be an eventful year as we continued to navigate COVID-19 surges and an early RSV season. I am continually amazed as to the dedication, resilience, and strength you all have shown over the last two years. It truly is an honor to work alongside each of you. But as they say, the show must go on!
At our recent annual WCAAP Board Retreat (sadly held on Zoom for half a day) we addressed our priorities for the upcoming year. As you may recall, earlier in the year we surveyed our membership, and the results of that survey guided our discussions. Not surprisingly, WCAAP members’ shared number one stressor and the area that members felt needed the most attention was Behavioral Health.
As each of you are acutely aware, the behavioral health crisis facing children today not only pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic but has been accelerated by it. In October this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association declared children’s mental health a national emergency, and just last week the Surgeon General released a report detailing the crisis. Washington state has made some incremental changes in how we support the behavioral health of our children and adolescents, such as increasing our CLIP bed capacity from 84 to 106 beds (serving 1.7 million children); however, we remain ranked 45th out of 50 states for mental health access for kids. To quote Dr. Breanna Barger-Kamate, a Pediatric Emergency Room physician at in Spokane, “Surely, we can agree that we can do better by our children.” The WCAAP has adopted behavioral health as our top priority for 2022, focusing on the integration of behavioral health with primary care (including sustainable financing) and expanding resources for at risk and identified patients. This priority is mirrored by our legislative advocacy agenda for 2022.
Social Determinants of Health & Family Well-being
We will also continue to focus on families’ Social Determinants of Health, members’ number two priority for WCAAP to address. Our work will begin with convening stakeholders, including parents, and partnering with state government agencies to implement reliable SDoH screenings and support for families found in need. In related work, as we are helping shape how our state would implement valued based payments for pediatrics, we have embedded SDoH into the model. Our 2022 legislative advocacy agenda also includes funding as Community Health Workers in primary care to give families meaningful support for SDoH.
Vaccination has always been a strong focus for the WCAAP and will remain so in the foreseeable future. We are working actively with the School Nurses Organization of Washington, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and youth to promote confidence in the Covid-19 vaccination for school age children via school communication. We will also continue to work closely with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the Governor’s office on mechanisms to increase uptake with the Covid-19 vaccine. We are a strong and trusted partner to DOH and the Governor and are grateful to be at the table for key policy discussions. However, we cannot lose sight of the other childhood and adolescent vaccines that have been ignored during the pandemic. Catch up vaccinations is an acute crisis for our patients and an issue that we are prepared to address. Through WA-CHIP we have supported 10-20 clinics per year to increase rates of adolescent vaccinations, and in 2022 WA-CHIP will support 12 clinics to overcome gaps in childhood and adolescent coverage rates.
Community Health & Foundations
Increasing focus on equity and antiracism in every aspect of our everyday work is critical our success. Embedded within each of our priorities is not only an equity lens, but also our foundational building blocks of parental involvement and membership support. Keeping our membership healthy and active is not only near and dear to our hearts but is critical in supporting the kids of Washington state.
Again, thank you for all you do. Please feel free to reach out and share your ideas and thoughts. We look forward to joining each of you at our Advocacy Day in Olympia on Friday, February 4th, 2022, which will occur virtually, given the limitations on in-person meetings during the coming legislative session. You can register for Advocacy Day here!