By Cassidy Christopher, Health Policy Manager
Nearly three years into a global pandemic, the importance of supporting kids’ health is more apparent than ever. In recent months, Children’s Alliance staff have been working alongside partners and lawmakers to ensure that we are a prominent voice in advocating for the health of Washington’s children who are furthest from opportunity during the 2023 legislative session.
This year, we’re calling on lawmakers to:
Address the youth behavioral health crisis: Children’s behavioral health challenges were on the rise even before the onset of the pandemic. Right now, children and teens are suffering with mental health and substance use issues at higher rates than ever. This is disproportionately impacting kids of color who already struggle under the weight of systemic racism. Transformational policy changes are needed to address the youth behavioral health crisis by investing in the behavioral health workforce as well as in evidence-based programs in child care, schools and health care settings.
Improve access to oral health care: Low-income households and families of color in our state experience systemic barriers to receiving oral health care at a disproportionate rate. Investment in oral health is even more critical now that health inequities have widened due to the pandemic. Allowing dental therapists to work in more of Washington’s communities is a safe, community-based approach to increasing access to quality and culturally appropriate dental care.
We will also support policies that:
Protect and expand abortion and reproductive health care access. Abortion access is under attack in many states, which is a direct threat to the health and financial stability of low-income families and people of color.
Provide free school meals to all students in Washington and enshrine healthy school meals as a basic component of education. All kids need a healthy breakfast and lunch to thrive at school.
Fight the youth tobacco and vaping crisis that is exacerbating health issues in children and teens who already face health disparities.
Safeguard oral health by protecting community water fluoridation efforts. Water fluoridation is a safe and effective way to improve oral health of whole communities. It is critical to our state’s public health that we protect the fluoridation efforts that are already making an impact in Washington.
Improve health coverage for everyone, including immigrant communities. Kids thrive when the adults who love them can also get the health care they need. Policies are needed to continue the expansion of health coverage for all adults and families – regardless of race, income or immigration status.
There is no better time to get involved in the legislative process and push our lawmakers to prioritize the health of Washington’s children. Contact Health Policy Manager Cassidy Christopher (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions on the contents of our health policy legislative agenda or want to find out how you can make your voice heard.