While a quieter session for local governmental public health, this session still provided opportunities to engage with legislators in several areas. Public health was supported and included in more significant initiatives, including workforce, behavioral health, and climate, demonstrating that the Legislature understands the need for more multidisciplinary approaches to these complex issues. Public health is part of these approaches. Unlike past sessions, most public health policies focused on proactive and positive policies around increasing access, health promotion and education, and increased regulations. Below is a brief highlight of several key bills that WSAC engaged in this year.
HB 1452: Establishing a statewide medical reserve corps
This bill directs the WA Department of Health to create and implement a statewide medical reserve corps that can be deployed during public health emergencies and crises. This corps will support local reserve corps and bring technical expertise and skilled responders closer to communities. While there are 21 local reserve corps across the state, this bill is critical in rural communities that can’t maintain a local corps but still need their services. The bill had unanimous support in both the House and Senate and is on its way to the Governor’s Office for his signature.
HB 1134: Implementing the 988 behavioral health crisis response and suicide prevention system
This complex bill laid out how Washington would set up and implement the 988 call line for behavioral health and suicide prevention. There were many changes in the House and Senate, but the bill ultimately passed both chambers. It’s now going through the conference committee process to harmonize changes made by both chambers.
HB 1470: Concerning private detention facilities
WSAC was initially concerned with this bill because of its unintended impact on youth detention facilities and the directive that local health jurisdictions would inspect and regulate them. WSAC successfully worked with bill proponents to mitigate local government’s involvement and wrote local health and youth facilities out of the bill through amendments. The bill eventually went on to pass both chambers and is in the conference committee.
SB 5022: Exempting fentanyl testing equipment from the definition of drug paraphernalia
A small bill aimed at removing testing supplies for fentanyl from the definitions of drug paraphernalia to reduce accidental overdoses due to fentanyl in drugs. A growing crisis in our state, fentanyl overdoses, is increasing rapidly among drug user populations and first-time drug users. This bill nearly made it across the finish line but ultimately failed to get off the House floor before cutoff. It reverts to the Senate and will likely move again next year.
HB 1706: Concerning the operation, authorization, and permitting of microenterprise home kitchens
This is a perennial issue that has come up over previous sessions. WSAC and WSALPHO worked closely with partners and the House Local Government Committee to draft a striker amendment that maintains the spirit of the bill but better balances food safety and public health considerations. Ultimately, the bill died early in the session.
HB 1012: Addressing the response to extreme weather events
Directing the Military Department to develop and implement an Extreme Weather Response Grant Program, funds would have been available for communities to access during extreme weather events such as wildfire smoke, extreme heat or cold, and flooding. While the bill died, the House did include funding in their proposed budget so grants could still be made available, making the bill “passed” through proviso.
WSALPHO, Policy Director