WCAAP Hosts Spokane Listening Session and Community Vaccine Discussion

Colleen McCarty, MPH and Sarah Nau, MSW

On June 21 and 22, WCAAP hosted two meetings in Spokane: a listening session at the home of WCAAP(now Immediate Past-)President, Mike Barsotti, and a community vaccine discussion at the Spokane Regional Health District. The listening session provided an opportunity for Spokane-area providers to mingle, share a meal, learn about recent and upcoming work at the Chapter from our Executive Director, Sarah Rafton, and discuss the needs they are seeing in their clinics and communities. Participants included a mix of primary care and general pediatricians as well as pediatric specialists.

Consistent with our recent member survey results, improving access to mental healthcare continues to be a top priority. In discussing the challenges around accessing mental health care, the group shared their experiences that behavioral health integration in primary care needs to better address both kids in crises, as well as kids with mild and moderate needs. There was consensus about the significant need for funding for care coordination to more effectively support kids’ behavioral needs and families’ financial and social needs, and some shared how community health workers have played an important role for patients. Additional concerns surfaced during this listening session included physician burnout, a lack of options for youth using illicit drugs or with substance-abuse disorder, and vaccine hesitancy.

The following evening Dr. Maria Huang, Co-Chair of the WCAAP Vaccine Committee, and Colleen McCarty, WCAAP Program Manager, hosted a community meeting at the Spokane Regional Health District to discuss immunization partnerships. WCAAP shared details about our ongoing project to form partnerships in Washington counties between local health jurisdictions, pediatric or primary care providers, and school nurses and administrators to address local health challenges, with an initial focus on increasing childhood immunization rates.

The Spokane community meeting brought together several school nurses and early learning coordinators, the superintendent of ESD 101,family medicine and pediatric providers, and staff from the Spokane Regional Health District. The group shared a meal and discussed challenges they are seeing in their respective fields relating to immunizations. Some of the challenges discussed included communication between clinics and preschools about preschool vaccine requirements, understanding WA-IIS forms, clinic access for families in rural areas, vaccine hesitancy, public health funding stipulations, and lack of awareness about community vaccine promotion efforts.

The group agreed that improving communication and educational resources between schools, clinics, and public health could be a great starting place to address many of the issues raised. The group discussed having staff from the Health District attend school superintendent meetings periodically to share updates, having clinics promote back-to-school vaccine clinics when appointment availability is low, and improving communication between early learning centers and clinics about school vaccine policies. Providers also shared the importance of including clinic staff who are involved in immunization management, delivery, and paperwork—such as clinic managers and medical assistants—in strategizing conversations as they are key players in vaccine processes.

WCAAP plans on expanding our outreach for additional meetings in the fall to continue these conversations and identify improvement efforts that would be most impactful to our communities. For additional information about these opportunities, please reach out to Colleen McCarty at cmccarty@wcaap.org.

WCAAP appreciates the hard work and dedication of all our community partners in Spokane and the surrounding area, as well as the support from our partners at the Washington Department of Health and Amerigroup.