Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!
This week’s newsletter includes information about the new crisis line serving Washington’s natives, reproductive health legislation being prepared ahead of next year’s legislative session, and concerns of hospital leaders regarding the limited capacity of children’s hospitals as a result of RSV.
In case you haven’t heard, we also have our first conference of 2023 on January 5th at the Westin Seattle! Register now to secure your spot for what is sure to be a valuable and dynamic event.
Thanks for reading!
State of reform
1. Washington becomes the first state to operationalize an Indigenous-focused crisis line
Washington State’s new crisis lifeline, specifically for American Indians and Alaska Natives, went into service Nov. 10. The nation’s first strong Indigenous lifeline is part of the state’s 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and will deploy an all-Indigenous staff of 15 to support members of their community going through crises.
Rochelle Williams, tribal operations manager for Volunteers of America of Western Washington — the organization that runs the lifeline — said this new resource is emerging as part of a broader shift in focus toward Indigenous health. “It can feel like the first inhabitants of this land are always considered the last, if at all,” she said. “Not anymore. Our needs will no longer go unnoticed. We will no longer remain invisible, not here, not now, never again.
2. Lawmakers Prepare Abortion Protection Legislation as State Sees More Abortions
Democratic state lawmakers are preparing to introduce an array of abortion protections in the 2023 session. Among the lawmakers’ reproductive health bill proposals is the creation of a constitutional amendment codifying the right to abortion. abortion, prohibiting non-healthcare organizations from accessing patient health data, and preventing healthcare consolidation by restricting patient choice. .
The move to further strengthen abortion protections in the state comes as Washington sees an increase in abortion services, in contrast to the nationwide decline in abortions in recent months. Washington performed 5% more abortions in August than in April, according to a report by the Society of Family Planning. This could be the result of an increase in the number of out-of-state abortion seekers coming to Washington for care.
3. What They’re Watching: Crystal Wong, MD, UW Medicine
In this edition of our “What They’re Watching” series, Crystal Wong, MD, associate director of digital health at the University of Washington Medicine, discussed UW’s efforts to strengthen its digital footprint. This includes further development of its direct-to-patient service delivery, telemedicine programs and virtual care services, she said.
UW is also focused on improving its specialty services, Wong said. “UW Medicine serves the WWAMI region. We are truly recognized as a very high quality health care system, especially in tertiary referral services. And we need to make that more efficient and more accessible for our communities. It’s just not reasonable to force people to travel to Seattle to see a specialist.
4. Affordable housing being developed for people with complex needs
Following the passage of House Bills 1866 and 1724 in the 2022 legislative session, the Washington Department of Commerce is preparing to provide affordable housing for homeless people with complex needs. The program will use $60 million in capital funds to create affordable housing for very low-income people with behavioral health needs or other disabling conditions.
“Trying to adapt to these challenges without a roof over your head is hard to overcome,” said the initiative’s chief executive, Melodie Pazolt, at a recent stakeholder meeting. “The idea of being able to fulfill the housing prescription for someone with those needs is what this program is all about.” Applicants must be at least 18 years old, participate in a medical assistance program and be eligible for community support services.
5. Pediatric health officials are alarmed by worrying hospital capacity
Statewide increases in childhood RSV cases have taken their toll on children’s hospitals in Washington in recent months, raising capacity issues among hospital leaders. Dr. Tony Woodward, medical director of emergency medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said earlier this month that children’s hospital ERs are at capacity almost constantly and can reach up to 300% capacity on evening.
“We are in crisis mode and borderline, if not disaster mode, in our emergency departments across the state,” Woodward said. “For people who don’t have an emerging problem, the wait is longer. I think it will take a while. Hospital workers fear they won’t be able to treat all the children who need it; according to Ben Whitworth, chief operating officer of Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Network, a child awaiting a behavioral health visit was on the ER waitlist for 347 days.
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