Dear Friends and Neighbors,
What does Phase 3 mean?
On Monday, March 22nd the entire state entered Phase 3 of the Roadmap to Recovery. This is possible because of the work of healthcare professionals to get people vaccinated and the work of everyone to decrease rates of transmission. If we continue to follow the guidance, mask up, and keep social gatherings small and distant, then we can all recover more quickly.
Phase 3 will be one more step on the Roadmap to Recovery and I want to share the initial, high level guidance. For a full and current description, please refer to coronavirus.wa.gov.
- First, the state will return to evaluating phases by county instead of by region.
- Sports spectators will be allowed to gather for events with limited capacity and following specific safety guidelines.
- Industries and indoor activities that were allowed in Phase 2 can increase capacity. This includes businesses like restaurants, gyms and fitness centers, and movie theaters, among others.
Again, please refer to coronavirus.wa.gov for the most up to date details. If cases in a county increase at a certain rate then that county may be moved to a previous phase and if statewide ICU capacity reaches greater than 90% then all counties will move to a previous phase in order to maintain enough beds for patients needing critical care.
I know we all want to return to doing the things we miss. We can get there faster if we follow the evidence-backed guidance to make sure we keep the virus under control while reopening safely.
988—a new lifeline for crisis response and suicide prevention
For most people in our community, the only number they know for emergencies is 911. When police or the fire department is needed, that’s the best number to call. But when the emergency is related to substance use, a mental health crisis, or a person at immediate risk of suicide, having a law enforcement officer arrive at their door may not be the appropriate emergency response.
Officers are not social workers, nor do they want to be. Without a comprehensive crisis response system, people in crisis can find themselves in standoffs with law enforcement when they should be in the care of a counselor. People with severe mental illness are far more likely to end up in jail or prison and are more likely to be involved in fatal police encounters.
An improved crisis response system would reduce reliance on emergency room services and the use of law enforcement response to crises. Last year, the bipartisan National Suicide Hotline Designation Act designated 988 as the new national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline number, paving the way for states to develop improved crisis response systems. The federal law requires the line be operational by July 16, 2022.
Last week, I was proud to vote for HB 1477 which would implement the 988 system here in Washington state. The vision of this bill and the 988 line is to create robust call centers to support people in crisis and ensure they receive the care they need, when they need it. These enhanced 988 services will coordinate with 911, EMT and law enforcement, and behavioral health systems to create a seamless system of care for those in crisis.
American Rescue Plan: What’s in it for Washington?
This month, Congress passed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, a strong federal investment in communities to help us all get past the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to strong leadership at the federal level, Washington state residents will receive support in the form of economic impact payments, while state, county, city, and tribal governments will receive increased funding and access to vaccines and testing, boosts to school districts and higher education institutions, rental assistance and child care funding, and support for small business grants.
Washington state’s share of the funds that the Legislature will have control over is about $4.253 billion. While we do not know exactly where that money will be directed yet, we should have a better idea by the time the House and Senate approve an operating budget in late April. Like we passed in February with our Step One for Community and Economic Recovery Plan (HB 1368), I will support using these federal funds to provide assistance to Washington families and businesses who have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. That means direct support for struggling renters, small restaurants and other neighborhood businesses, school districts, uninsured and underinsured individuals, and Black and Brown communities, which have been disproportionately hurt during the pandemic.
As always, please reach out if you have questions, comments, or ideas.
All best wishes,
Representative, 45th District
Washington State Legislature