The Children’s Behavioral Health Crisis & Town Hall Invite!
It’s the seventh week of the legislative session! Last Friday was policy cutoff and this Friday is fiscal cutoff. Only bills that have already passed out of their policy committee and fiscal committee will be moving forward.
Below, I want to share some of the critical policy work we are doing to support services for youth in crisis at hospitals and young children with developmental disabilities. There is also an invitation to my upcoming Town Hall where I can hear more from you!
Support for Children in Crisis
Across Washington, an uptick of mental health crises among youth has put more children in hospitals. In extreme cases, after a child has been treated for behavioral or psychological concerns and is ready to be discharged, there is nowhere for them to go. They may end up “boarding,” or stuck in limbo inside of hospital units, as their parents or guardians can’t handle them at home safely or they don’t have the resources or supports needed.
Consequently, hospital beds remain full, further straining psychiatric care availability, and children are staying indefinitely in small hospital rooms without windows or the ability to go outdoors, exacerbating their mental health challenges. This alarming issue is the consequence of numerous other issues interacting: the children’s mental health crisis, a lack of mental health and developmental disabilities supports for children (see below), and a limited supply of housing options. You can read more about these children’s experiences here.
We are hard at work on innovative, compassionate and urgent solutions to these challenges.
- Creating a system of support for children in crisis and stuck in hospitals (HB 1580). This issue is so urgent, a Gubernatorial role is critical. This bill creates a Children and Youth Care Coordinator in the Governor’s office to implement and lead a Rapid Care Team to identify and locate appropriate services, supports, and safe, secure living arrangements for a child in crisis. We must eliminate these long hospital stays for our kids!
- Making applied behavioral therapy more accessible (HB 1776). Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy helps to improve social skills for people with autism and other disabilities by using interventions based on principles of learning, and increases social abilities like completing tasks, communicating effectively, and learning new skills which is critical. While Medicaid covers ABA therapy, private insurance often fails to. HB 1776 will ensure private insurance coverage, making this valuable tool more accessible to families, and allowing youth to get the care they need. Combined with wraparound intensive services, more youth can be served in the community.
Special thanks to my colleague Rep. Lisa Callan who has been leading this effort and is co-Chair of the Youth and Children’s Behavioral Health Workgroup, which has a number of critical recommendations we are working on, too!
Young Children with Developmental Disabilities & Special Needs
Serving youth with disabilities from the first moment their needs are identified is not only compassionate and beneficial to their education and future, but it also makes fiscal sense. From birth into young adulthood, getting youth the services they need is critical!
- Special education funding for young children (HB 1676) Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) builds a strong and enriching foundation for special education services throughout life—but it has unfortunately been largely underfunded. I’ve introduced HB 1676 to invest in more supports for children from birth to age 3, which leads to less supports and special education they will need later in life.
- Maintaining eligibility for developmental disability services (HB 1407) If a child is diagnosed with a developmental disability at a young age, the diagnosis is usually indefinite and lifelong, yet we continue to put up barriers to accessing ongoing support. HB 1407 eliminates the unnecessary hoops parents must jump through to sustain services for their children by eliminating redetermination for a child under the age of 18, based solely on the child’s age.
- Connecting foster youth to developmental disability services (HB 1188) Foster youth have no less need for developmental disability services than any other youth. Yet in Washington State, foster youth can’t access DD services! My bill, HB 1188, will change that!
BREAKING NEWS: My bill, HB 1109, related to special education funding for extra capacity over the summer, passed the fiscal committee UNANIMOUSLY yesterday!
Visits to Olympia!
Last week was Association of Washington Cities week! I had some great meetings with City Councilmembers from Issaquah, Sammamish, Mercer Island, Newcastle and Bellevue!!
Save the Date for my Virtual Town Hall!
Mark your calendar for my Virtual Town Hall on Thursday, March 9 at 6:30 PM. Stay tuned here and on my Facebook for details about how to register. If you’d like to get in touch but can’t participate in the Town Hall, please feel free to email me at Tana.Senn@leg.wa.gov or email my legislative assistant at Yuval.Berenstein@leg.wa.gov to find a time to stop by my office in Olympia. I hope to hear from you soon!
Rep. Tana Senn