5 Things Washington: Youth mental health, Housing benefit, Public health emergency


Emily Boerger


As State of Reform continues to expand and grow, we’re excited to announce that we’ve hired a new full time reporter to cover the intersection of health care and health policy in Washington State. Shane Ersland comes to State of Reform with over 10 years of journalism experience, having most recently worked as an editor at the Yakima Valley Business Times.

You can reach out to Shane with tips and story ideas here!

Emily Boerger
State of Reform


1. Fotinos discusses Apple Health & Homes Act

Gov. Inslee recently signed the Apple Health and Homes Act into law, establishing a new program to provide a permanent supportive housing benefit and a community support services benefit for eligible Medicaid enrollees. The new law builds on Washington’s Foundational Community Supports program and establishes the new Office of Apple Health and Homes to acquire, develop, operate, and maintain permanent supportive housing units.

In comments to State of Reform, Acting Medicaid Director Dr. Charissa Fotinos said the bill was crafted through input from a broad range of stakeholders, along with state agency staff who thought through how best to align the new law with existing behavioral health and housing efforts. Fotinos says implementation of the new housing benefit will begin January 1st, 2023.

2. Inslee signs series of health policy into law

Inslee signed a flurry of health-related legislation at the end of last month as the 20-day signing deadline approached. Among the bills signed were HB 2007, which establishes the Nurse Educator Loan Repayment Program, HB 1688, which aligns state and federal surprise billing laws, and HB 1881, which establishes a voluntary certification process for birth doulas.

Inslee also signed a series of bills aimed at addressing the state’s behavioral health crisis. The bills include HB 1286, which adopts the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact in Washington, HB 1800 & HB 1890, which both aim to improve access to behavioral health services for youth, and SB 5644, which will establish training opportunities for co-response teams.


3. Planned Parenthood prepares for surge in patients

At a press conference in Seattle last week, Planned Parenthood officials said they are preparing to see a possible surge in patients seeking abortions and reproductive care following recent restrictions put in place by neighboring states. Planned Parenthood is investing more resources into patient navigators and call centers while also “working to stabilize all of our health centers, shore up access, [and] lean into telehealth for birth control,” according to reporting from the Seattle Times.

Other states, like Colorado (which saw a 1,000% increase in abortion patients from Texas following its abortion ban), are similarly preparing for an influx of patients. During the legislative session this year, Washington lawmakers passed a bill that prohibits the state from taking legal action against an individual who seeks an abortion or against those who assist them.

4. National and local surveys highlight youth mental health challenges

Recently released surveys at both the national and state level highlight ongoing youth mental health concerns during the pandemic. A recently released CDC report, which examined behavioral health challenges and risk behaviors among students across the country, found that 44% of high school students said they felt persistently hopeless or sad during the past year. Thirty-seven percent reported they had experienced poor mental health during the pandemic and 55% said they had experienced emotional abuse by an adult at home.

The Washington 2021 Healthy Youth Survey found that 38% of 10th grade participants reported feeling sad or hopeless in the past year, and 20% said they had seriously considered attempting suicide. The survey also found, however, that reported use of alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, and vaping were all significantly lower compared to 2018.


5. Details on Biden’s budget and the future of the PHE

State of Reform Columnist Jim Capretta’s recent columns cover topics that are particularly timely and relevant to ongoing state and federal health policy conversations. In this column, he reviews the status of public health emergency declarations and the various flexibilities put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In another column, Capretta dives into the details of the “most significant recommendations” related to health care included in the Biden administration’s updated budget plan. He highlights the funding outlook for pandemic preparedness, the Build Back Better plan, mental health services, and ARPA-H.