We worked hard this legislative session, advocating for positive changes that would benefit children, youth, and families in our state. Among many things this session, we saw advances in eligibility for subsidized childcare, expansion of services for youth in crisis, and a move toward accountability in rate setting for behavioral health.
Below are a handful of bills and budget items that we have been actively tracking, and we are pleased to see move forward. A few have been signed into law and some are awaiting signature or veto from the governor. Please also at the companion attacment in this blog post for a comparison document on the House, Senate, and Governors’ budgets.
Thank you for following along and making your voices heard.
Family Connections Program (HB 2525): The FCP uses a peer-support model to help build relationships between birth parents and caregivers of children in out of home placements. Birth parents are paired with a parent ally, and caregivers with a caregiver mentor. The goal of these relationships is to improve outcomes for children, by reducing trauma and decreasing time toward reunification. This program will begin in September of 2020 in two counties. One year after implementation, a report shall be made to the legislature that will explain the findings, and offer a plan for statewide expansion. Although funding was initially included in the budget, it was vetoed by the Governor to free up funding to respond to the developing COVID 19 crisis. The FCP remains a part of statue and has been signed into law.
Certificates of Parental Improvement (2SHB 1645): Up until now, if an individual received a founded finding of abuse or neglect, they were permanently denied certain opportunities for employment and community engagement. 2SHB1645 directs the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to develop and implement a process by which an individual who is the subject of a founded finding of negligent treatment or maltreatment, or an individual whose child was found by a court to be dependent as a result of a finding that the individual neglected their child, may request the secretary of DCYF to issue a certificate of parental improvement (CPI), subject to a number of conditions.
The CPI would provide a road back for those individuals, opening up more opportunities for employment and connection. With this certificate, agencies and organizations would no longer be able to turn away volunteers or employment candidates solely on the basis of having a founded finding.
Children and Youth Behavioral Health Work Group (2SHB 2737): The Children’s Mental Health Work Group (CMHWG) was established in 2016 to identify barriers to accessing mental health services for children and families, and to advise the Legislature on statewide mental health services for this population. This bill renames the CMHWG the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Work Group, and extends its convening until 2026. The membership of this group is expanded, and the bill directs the work group to develop and sustain system improvements to support the behavioral health needs of children and youth and to convene an advisory group focused on school-based behavioral health and suicide prevention.
Partnership Access Line (SHB 2728): This bill directs the Health Care Authority to implement the Tele-Behavioral Health Call Center/Psychiatry Consultation Line (PCL). Additionally the bill establishes a funding model for the Partnership Access Line (PAL) and PCL programs, changes data and reporting requirements for the PAL, PCL, and PAL for Moms and Kids programs, and creates the Tele-behavioral Health Access Account. Finally, SHB2728 directs the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee to conduct a review of the PAL for Moms and Kids pilot program.
Behavioral Health rate transparency (EHB 2584): This bill grounds behavioral health Medicaid rate increases in the rate-setting process for the provider type or practice setting. The Health Care Authority (HCA) must work with the actuaries responsible for establishing Medicaid rates for behavioral health services to assure appropriate adjustments are made. The HCA will establish a process for verifying that funds appropriated for targeted behavioral health provider rate increases are used for that objective. Additionally, the process must include a method for determining if the funds have increased access to the behavioral health services offered by the behavioral health providers who are the subject of the rate increases and must include the participation of representatives from the Managed Care Organizations (MCOs), behavioral health administrative services organizations, and providers that are the subject of the rate increases. The HCA must also provide annual reports to the Legislature regarding the implementation processes and results of targeted BH provider rate increases.
Expanding adolescent access to behavioral health care (SHB 2883): It is important for youth and young adults to be able to access the behavioral health care that they need. To this end, Family-Initiated Treatment (FIT) is expanded to include adolescent treatment in residential treatment facilities. The bill also removes time limits for FIT in a residential treatment facility and instead requires the independent assessment of medical necessity to recur every 30 days while the adolescent is receiving treatment. Additionally, the Health Care Authority must establish a data collection and tracking system for FIT.
Families in conflict (SHB 2873): The bill provides a modified and expanded definition for family reconciliation services (FRS) and directs the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), or a community-based entity under contract with DCYF, to offer FRS to families or youth experiencing conflict upon request from the family, subject to the funds appropriated for these services. Additionally, the bill states that DCYF, or a community-based entity under contract with DYCF, can complete a required family assessment as part of the child in need of services, or an at-risk youth petition. And finally, SHB2873 directs DCYF to provide data on the use of FRS.
Improving access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) (SHB2441): Our current TANF policies require that if a recipient refuses to engage in work and work activities required by the department, the family’s grant shall be reduced by the recipient’s share and may, if the department determines it appropriate, be terminated. As a result of SHB2441, the policy will state that after two months of continuous 12 noncompliance, the bill requires that the family’s grant be reduced by the recipient’s share, or by forty percent, whichever is greater, and must be terminated after twelve months of continuous noncompliance. This extends to 1 year the length of time after which termination from the grant would happen. Further, the will requires that the Department of Social and Health Services waive the penalties (i.e. reducing or terminating the grant) required in the legislation, subject to a finding that the recipient refused to engage in work for good cause provided in RCW 74.08A.270.19 20.
Revising Economic Assistance Programs (SSSB6478): Current law requires the Department of Social and Health Services to exempt TANF recipients from the five-year time limit due to hardship, family violence, or if the recipient meets criteria in current adopted rules. Beginning July 1, 2021, a family on TANF that does not have a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence as described in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act must add to exemption rules, meaning families that meet that definition must not be terminated from the program.
Additionally, by December 31st of each year, DSHS must report to the Governor and the Legislature disaggregated data identifying the race of individuals whose TANF benefits were reduced or terminated during the preceding year due to sanction or reaching the 60-month limit. If the disaggregated data shows a disproportionate representation of any racial group that has experienced historic disparities, the DSHS must describe steps it is taking to address and remedy the disproportionality.
Child support pass-through (2SSB 5144): Currently if a non-custodial parent of a child living in a household on TANF is paying child support the entire payment goes to offset the TANF grant, and no part of it is received by the custodial parent. The bill requires the Department of Social and Health Services to pass through a portion of child support collections for families receiving assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF). Effective February of 2021, the Division of Child Support shall pass through child support that does not exceed $50 per month collected on behalf of a family with one child, or $100 in the case of a family which includes two or more children.
Working Connections Child Care Eligibility (SHB2456): Currently a family identified as homeless is able to access Working Connections Child Care for 4 months, aka the Homeless Grace Period, (as opposed to the 12 months for families not identified as homeless) if they meet the following criteria: homelessness is verified within 30 days of application; the family has not received a homeless grace period in the previous 12 months; and the family meets all eligibility requirements except that families have four months to provide (1) verification of participation in approved work activities, (2) required third-party verification of employment, and (3) verification of payment or payment plan arrangements for an outstanding payment. SHB2456 directs the Department of Children, Youth, and Families to extend the homeless grace period in the Working Connections Child Care program to allow families 12 months instead of four months to provide the required information.
Working Connections Child Care payments (ESSB 6540): This bill was coined the “12 months means 12 months” bill. Families on subsidized child care (Working Connections Child Care – WCCC) are eligible for 12 month of child care regardless of temporary changes in parents’ work, approved activities, or income as long as the income does not exceed 85 percent of the state median income. Under this bill the 12-month WCCC authorization period will begin on the date that child care is expected to begin, instead of when they are deemed eligible to receive it.
Childcare for parents in high school (ESHB 2455): Starting September of 2020, a parent who is attending high school or working toward a GED and is 21 or younger is eligible to receive WCCC. When determining consumer eligibility and copayment, the Department of Children, Youth, and Families: must, within existing resources, authorize full-day subsidized child care during the school year when certain requirements are met; may not consider the availability of the other biological parent when authorizing care; and may not require a copayment. To receive authorization for full-day subsidized child care, a parent must: participate in 110 hours of approved activities per month; have a household income not exceeding 85 percent of the state median income at the time of application; and meet all other eligibility requirements. Additionally, by July 1, 2021, at the request of an eligible student, a school district may allow the student to transport their infant on a school bus or other student transportation vehicle provided by the district. The infant must be transported in a rear-facing child restraint system as defined in the federal motor vehicle safety standards.
Safe Harbors (E3SHB 1775): The goal of this legislation is to provide services to youth who are commercially sexually exploited, and ensure that victims of these crimes are not treated as criminals. The bill limits the crime of prostitution to adults 18 and older starting in January 2024. The bill also creates two receiving centers to provide services to commercially sexually exploited youth, ages 12-17. These centers must begin providing services by July 2021, and will be located in a behavioral health agency that provides inpatient or residential treatment services. The Department of Children, Youth, and Families, the Department of Health, and the Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, will be meeting and coordinating the implementation of receiving centers and developing eligibility criteria for serving commercially sexually exploited youth. Further requirements are outlined about the circumstances under which youth can be transported, data that must be gathered, and the roles and responsibilities of DCYF.
Youth solitary confinement (2SHB 2277): This bill recognizes the harm that solitary confinement has on youth and prohibits the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities and institutions. The use of isolation or room confinement in these settings is also limited. Juveniles who are charged as adults are prohibited from being held in adult jail for longer than 24 hours without a court order. By July 2021, a model policy rated to juvenile solitary confinement must be adopted, and reporting requirements for county and state juvenile detention facilities and institutions are created.