Washington lawmakers on both sides of the aisle discussed some key health-related policy priorities and issues to watch over the course of the 2022 Health Policy Conference on the State of Northwest Inland Reform.
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The conference included 2 political leadership panels. Representatives Paul Harris (R-Vancouver) and Rob Chase (R-Liberty Lake) represented the Republican panel, while Representatives Nicole Macri (D-Seattle) and Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane) represented the Democratic panel.
Macri discussed some Democratic priorities for the 2023 legislative session, saying long-term care, behavioral health, and opioid/substance use will be the top 3 focus areas. She works professionally in behavioral health at a non-profit organization and has spoken about ways to recruit more field workers.
“Working in behavioral health is a career ladder,” Macri said. “We talk a lot about loan forgiveness, and that’s really a key retention strategy. But we don’t have enough people who have the degrees, who have the education right now. We have to help develop people. Part of this will be through higher education. A lot is going to happen at work with hybrid training and apprenticeship. How do we bring in new role models to help people advance in their careers and do we have the right credentials? »
Macri has contributed to many crisis response works related to the implementation of the new statewide system 988 suicide and crisis lifeline.
“The nonprofit agency I work for provides much of the adult mobile crisis response work in the King County area,” Macri said. “The behavioral health credentials we have may not be perfectly aligned with the credentials that serve us best in a crisis response system. So as we look to expand this system, what certifications and credentials, what types of installation licenses do we require? Just being creative to meet current needs will be part of the conversation we’re going to have.
Riccelli said he would focus on the state’s behavioral health workforce shortage and oral health.
“I will continue to be an oral health champion,” Riccelli said. “I think too often that gets left out of the equation. It puts people in emergency rooms like many other things. I was delighted to learn that the Ministry of Health and the [Health Care Authority] look [hiring] a dental director. They think it could also unlock federal funds. It’s awesome. I sponsored an invoice 3 or 4 years ago to see a dental director. I think it’s important to focus on that. I still believe that oral health is sort of where behavioral health was maybe 5 or 6 years ago, in that we’re talking about treating the whole person.
Macri said it is also likely that legislation regarding access to abortion will be introduced.
“We did a lot of analysis around the impacts of access to care for patients,” Macri said. “We are seeing an increase in out-of-state patients seeking care here in Washington State. We expect to see policy in both… Protections that we can put in place for providers and for patients, and patient access. It was a priority.
Harris said the state’s health care worker shortage and mental health will be two key GOP priorities for the 2023 legislative session.
“There’s a shortage in every workforce right now,” Harris said. “We compete in health care like everyone else. I think the hot topic coming next year will always be mental health. Mental health will continue to be an important piece of legislation for the next session.
Chase said mental health will also be a priority for him. He gained a lot of experience in this area after adopting a couple of foster children, one of whom suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome.
“It was a roller coaster, but now he works at Enterprise Rent-A-Car,” Chase said. “He’s a draftsman; He likes that. He got married. It’s a success. We must help those most in need. These people are helpless. It’s not fair to them. »
Harris was asked if he supports the possibility of Washington joining the Nurse License Agreement.
“I think the Nurse Compact is a barrier to attracting nurses to our state,” Harris said. “It’s a problem where people control their environment and I kind of understand that. Although if we have shortages I hope we start to loosen that up a bit because I believe we need more nurses. We need more CNAs. We need more of everything.
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