Click here for updates on the 2019 legislative session as they relate to our priorities.
The Community Health Network of Washington (CHNW) promotes public policies to protect and increase access to health insurance and health care for Washingtonians.
2019 Legislative Priorities
- Protect the Health Care Safety Net
- Increase Oral Health Capacity
- Increase Access to Behavioral Health Services Focused on Prevention, Early Intervention, and Ongoing Management at the community level by –
- Passing a capital budget that increases behavioral health capacity at Community Health Centers
- Creating an integrated credential for Master’s level mental health providers, and
- Increasing loan repayment funds specifically for behavioral health providers.
Community health centers (CHCs) remain committed to serving the most vulnerable and underserved in the state. CHCs ensure that everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, cultural or language needs, or other factors, has access to quality, affordable health care. As Washington’s health care safety net providers, CHCs have been committed partners with the state in expanding access, increasing capacity, and assisting individuals to enroll in and maintain health coverage. To build upon this work, our focus is to protect the health care safety net, increase oral health capacity, and increase access to behavioral health (BH) services by investing in BH capacity, creating streamlined substance use disorder credential for mental health providers, and adding behavioral health funding to the Health Professional Loan Repayment (HPLR) program.
Protect the Health Care Safety Net
Washington’s state budget continues to face pressure under the weight of competing fiscal priorities and we continue to face federal attempts to undermine gains made through the Affordable Care Act. We will be vigilant in working with the Legislature to ensure there are no cuts to the health care safety net, which provides access to health care for the most vulnerable individuals in the state. Our focus is on ensuring that Medicaid coverage remains robust and that coverage options for currently eligible enrollees remain in place. The Legislature must continue to protect existing health care safety net programs.
Pass a Capital Budget that Increases Oral Health Capacity
In the last biennium, lawmakers passed a capital budget that included a historic $16 million investment in safety net dental clinics and dental residency programs, many at CHCs. This investment expanded care to tens of thousands of Medicaid-enrolled and uninsured adults and children – many of whom have not had access to oral health care in their entire lives. Despite the progress made, there continues to be a lack of access to oral health. The state needs to provide 500,000 more dental visits every year to ensure that low-income individuals and families get the care they need. To continue closing this gap, Washington CHCs from across the state are seeking $10.1 million in capital budget support to build 16 new clinics to serve over 46,000 new patients and almost 130,000 visits per year.
Increase Access to Behavioral Health Services Focused on Prevention, Early Intervention, and Ongoing Management at the community level by:
- Passing a capital budget that increases behavioral health capacity at community health centers. To increase access to behavioral health services, the Legislature should make a $13.5 million capital investment in CHC facilities. The package includes 21 distinct projects, covering diverse geographic areas and a variety of urban and rural settings. Each project significantly expands behavioral health capacity and is tailored to the distinctive needs of the community it serves. With the additional resources, CHCs will be able to provide 17,000 – 18,500 more patients’ access to BH services.
- Creating an integrated credential for master’s level mental health providers. To increase access to treatment for behavioral health patients with substance use disorders, the Legislature should create the integrated treatment credential. This streamlined credential will allow psychologists, licensed mental health counselors, advanced social workers, and independent clinical social workers to treat patients with substance use disorders.
- Increasing loan repayment funds targeted at behavioral health providers. Of the 80 BH providers who sought loan repayment assistance in 2018, only 12 received an award. CHCs propose adding a separate, supplemental loan repayment pool for BH providers under the existing HPLR program. This dedicated funding would provide loan repayment assistance exclusively to eligible mental health providers, as well as physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners who are eligible to provide Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) services.