Telling Our Stories: Children’s Mental Health Forum

Sarah Rafton
Executive Director
Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

On November 15th, the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Washington Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry partnered to host a children’s mental health forum at the capitol. Sixteen legislators and legislative staff attended, plus eight partners/stakeholders and seven physicians sharing their stories of the crisis in access to mental health care and specific solutions to improve kids’ outcomes – including behavioral health integration within primary care clinics, the Partnership Access Line (PAL), and our burgeoning idea for a centralized referral phone line.

Please join me in extending our gratitude at WCAAP to Avanti Bergquist, Christine Larson, Lelach Rave, Robyn Rogers, John Dunne, Thatcher Felt and Zsolt Lorant for making the time to come to Olympia to help educate policy makers. This crew was a force: three child psychiatrists and four pediatricians, representing inpatient and outpatient care. They all traveled great distances to make this happen, especially Thatcher Felt and John Dunne.

At the forum, Lelach Rave presented Representatives Dent and Senn with their AAP Advocate of the Year award. The legislators were visibly honored and touched to receive this national AAP award.

WCAAP and I are extremely grateful for Avanti Bergquist who made this all happen with a grant from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Thank you, Avanti! (We are already collaborating on the next grant opportunity.)

All in all, this event helped capture policymakers’ attention on the gravity of the problem and queued us up nicely for session. I am reflecting on how important it is that we tell our story in as many ways, as many times as possible. I will be thinking about how else we can do this and encourage you to do the same. Of course I know two things you can do now:

  1. If you have not yet met with your legislators while they are home in district before session, please do take the time to have a cup of coffee and share with them WCAAP’s priorities and what’s important for the kids you serve. Everything you need can be found here: 
  2. If you have not yet registered for WCAAP Advocacy Day, do so today! We have an excellent day planned, including Governor Jay Inslee, legislators from both sides of the aisle, advocacy training and much more.