5 Things Washington: 2022 health policy, Delta and the state budget, BH crisis response


Emily Boerger


This month’s Inland NW event was a good one with just shy of 400 folks registered at this virtual event after it was all said and done. Our Convening Panel for our upcoming event at the Westin Seattle in January will get together in two weeks

From where we sit today, I think we should be back in person come January. We’ll have proof of vaccination required for everyone. We’ll require masks, if those continue to be required by King County. We’ll have spaced seating. And, we’ll consider same day COVID tests for everyone.

What would you think about getting back in person? Can you share your thoughts in this 5-question, 1-minute survey? I’d appreciate it.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Health policy priorities in the 2022 session

Over the course of two separate breakout sessions during the State of Reform conference earlier this month, six legislators offered their observations on the health care and fiscal policy they will prioritize in the 2022 legislative session. Both panels highlighted the importance of addressing the health care workforce shortage in the state – particularly in the nursing, oral health, and behavioral health fields.

The Democratic leadership panel said they will prioritize continued telehealth improvements, mental health, lowering prescription drug costs, and ensuring health care access for immigrants. Legislators on the Republican leadership panel said increased Medicaid reimbursement rates, rural health access, and addressing the long-term care payroll tax will be top of mind. Due to the short session next year, Rep. Nicole Macri noted lawmakers will likely focus on fine tuning policies passed in 2021 and laying the groundwork for bigger policy considerations during the next 105-day session in 2023.

2. Ormsby says Delta’s impact on state budget shouldn’t be underestimated

Rep. Timm Ormsby, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, says the Delta variant and the refusal by some folks in the state to get vaccinated will have “huge implications” for the state budget. In comments made during the State of Reform conference earlier this month, he noted that the recent surge in cases has put the state budget in an uncertain position.

“I have not asked staff about the specific status of our reserves because I think it’s immaterial at this point because we don’t know what the need is going to be. And I don’t think we’re going to know until we get to the other side of this particular crisis,” said Ormsby. “And I think we’re just in a difficult, unenviable position of making real-time decisions on information that could have implications in the future for things we can’t predict.”


3. Q&A: Jessica Shook, Olympic Health & Recovery Services

Since lawmakers passed House Bill 1310 (concerning use of force by law enforcement) in the spring, law enforcement agencies and organizations have expressed concern over what they perceive as a lack of clarity regarding whether officers can physically intervene when a person is experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Some law enforcement executives, including several from Thurston County, have said they will not respond to some mental health calls altogether because of the new law.

We spoke with Jessica Shook, crisis services manager at Olympic Health & Recovery Services in Thurston County, about how the bill, and law enforcement’s reaction to it, are impacting her team’s work. “We have been less able to respond in the community if it’s been in a potentially unsafe situation,” Shook says. “Crisis workers are not law enforcement, they’re not first responders. We don’t have equipment to defend ourselves, we don’t put hands on [people], and we don’t interact with people in any kind of physical way.”

4. What They’re Watching: Dr. Marc Avery, HMA

Marc Avery, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist and a principal at Health Management Associates. He’s also considered an expert in delivery system transformation in areas related to integrated care, collaborative care, and population health. In this video, Avery discusses what integrated care means to him and how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this care approach to the forefront.

“Integrated care isn’t just taking two things and joining them together. It’s taking several concepts and getting them all to work together seamlessly,” says Avery. “And those [concepts] would include working together as a team and sharing tasks efficiently across various team members. [This would occur] while everyone on that team is simultaneously taking a person-centered approach to health care.”


5. Video: Health disparities & lessons learned

At the State of Reform conference, four experts from diverse viewpoints discussed health disparities revealed during the pandemic and the efforts their organizations are engaging in to improve equity across the state. During the conversation, Sen. Emily Randall discussed policy solutions from the last session including her bills to create a universal health care commission and to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage.

All panelists emphasized their support for community-based solutions to public health problems, and individually highlighted their efforts related to digital equity, building workforce pipelines for underrepresented communities, and COVID-19 surveillance. Video of their full comments is available here.