President’s Message: WCAAP in 2020

Elizabeth Meade, MD, FAAP
President, Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

The start of a new year gives us a chance to think about new opportunities, fresh beginnings, and to reflect on what went well in the last 12 months and what changes we want to make. I am thrilled to say that when I reflect on WCAAP’s 2019 year, so many strengths and accomplishments come to mind. Legislative advocacy continues to be the core of our chapter’s daily work, and we are incredibly lucky to have such brilliant staff and members supporting these efforts. Next week, we will travel to Olympia for our annual Advocacy Day, where pediatric health care providers from across Washington state will gather to meet with our own legislators and advocate for child and family health. This year, our focus priorities include improving access to care for kids by achieving Medicaid to Medicare rate parity for pediatric and behavioral health care; extending funding for Washington’s Mental Health Referral Service; a focus on maternal-child health and extending Medicaid post-partum coverage from two months to one year; and vaping legislation that would decrease the number of children and teens using these harmful products.

There are real and ongoing threats to child health across the globe and here at home in Washington state. In 2019, the US saw nearly 1,300 cases of measles – 87 of them in Washington. So far this flu season, 27 children have died from influenza-associated illness. Six million children and teens are vaping in the U.S.; 2500 vaping-associated lung injury cases have been reported, with 55 deaths (several of them teens and young adults). Washington currently ranks 43rd for behavioral health care access for children and teens. We will continue to fight for the health and well-being of all children and families in our state, and to partner closely with the national American Academy of Pediatrics to protect children across the country and the world.

On a brighter note, there is so much good we are doing. Our list of accomplishments in 2019 is long and bold. We achieved a 10% rate increase in Medicaid behavioral health reimbursement, helped expand the Partnership Access Line for behavioral health education and support, developed a toolkit for behavioral health integration for pediatric practices, started work on a Pediatric Improvement Partnership to improve the health of children state-wide, led a learning collaborative focused on adolescent vaccine rates, helped pass legislation increasing rates of MMR vaccine for young children, focused on early learning and training providers in universal developmental screening, and established a workgroup focused on improving care for babies with Neonatal Opiate Withdrawal Syndrome – including founding a medical-legal partnership to help parents of infants with NOWS navigate the legal system… I’m tired just reading that list, and that is the edited-down highlight reel of all the incredible work our staff and members are doing. We are so fortunate to be doing this work, and we have so much left to do.

The start of a new year also brings a change in the national AAP presidency. We would like to acknowledge WCAAP member and former WCAAP President Dr. Kyle Yasuda for his incredible year serving as AAP President. Dr. Yasuda led with grace, fortitude, and tireless passion for children and families, and we are so grateful for his work. Our former WCAAP Presidents set the bar high, and their continued mentorship and guidance are one of the reasons WCAAP remains so strong.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and productive new year. As always, please reach out to me with any questions, worries, stories, wins, or wishes to get involved!