Update on HB 1676: WSALPHO shared proposed amendment language to committee members which provides clarity and protection on the FPHS account. We believe that amendment and at least one other will be considered and approved should the bill get the votes needed to move it out of committee. However, as expected, the bill has yet to be put on Executive Session Calendar for the Finance Committee, though it has until February 3rd to move. Although it is a tax bill, it’s unclear if it would be labeled NTIB (Necessary to Implement the Budget) and would still be in “play” after the first cutoff.

Coming up next week are a couple of smaller public health and healthcare bills of interest:

One of the first public health bills to see some floor action, HB 1074 would allow for local governments to create overdose and suicide fatality review coalitions, similar to child death review teams. Many local governments (Snohomish and Benton-Franklin are two examples) have identified these review teams as critical to understanding and building a response around substance use disorders, behavioral health programs, and mental health services. The bill has been pulled from Rules and will likely move off the floor quickly as there is bi-partisan support.

Thursday in House Local Government, HB 1684 will be heard. This bill would have several first steps towards municipal water fluoridation, though it exempts private wells, Group B water systems, and Group A water systems with less than 5,000 connections. It would require systems to conduct a cost analysis of implementing and maintaining water fluoridation, and would require the Department of Health to undergo rulemaking and develop an assistance and technical support program as part of their Office of Drinking Water.

It is important for public health and our healthcare system to begin to position itself to respond to increasing demands of “hidden” pandemics emerging from the last two years. One of these is the mental health and behavioral health needs of youth. HB 1865 seeks to address the looming workforce shortage for behavioral health practitioners, taking lessons hard-learned from public health and healthcare shortages in COVID response. In a similar vein, SB 5892 would establish a pilot program geared toward addressing healthcare shortages in rural areas.

Another bill of interest to critical access areas and other frontier areas in our state is HB 1893, which will be heard next Thursday in House Healthcare. This bill would allow for EMTs to provide specific medical care under the request of a local or state public health agency. During the pandemic, EMTs have been able to provide COVID vaccines and conduct tests in areas where primary and urgent care is limited.