This year marks Washington's first in-person legislative session since COVID spread throughout the United States in early 2020, leaving hospitals and healthcare workers scrambling in its continued wake. The years of grief, isolation and stress have taken their toll on a public mental health crisis that was simmering long before the pandemic. And less than a year after the June 2022 Supreme Court decision overturned Roe v. Wade, reproductive policies are top of mind. 

From a possible ban of over-the-counter sexual assault kits to personal data collection, WA lawmakers have some big proposals on the docket this legislative session. Here are some Crosscut stories with more information on the legislative healthcare agenda and the state of medical care in the Northwest:

Washington state may boost 988 hotline funding as demand grows

Three years in, five Washingtonians a day are still dying of COVID

Washington state considers banning over-the-counter rape kits

Students lobby for WA bills on abortion and gender-affirming care

WA awards grants to BIPOC groups tackling birthing inequities

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WA HB 1134: Implementing the 988 behavioral health crisis response and suicide prevention system

House Bill 1134 aims to implement a set of informational materials, phone contact centers and a social media campaign, around the 988 crisis hotline. The material will be tailored toward veterans, members of LGBTQIA+ communities and American Indian and Alaska Natives. Consulted groups will include tribal nations, the American Indian Health Commission of Washington state, the Native and Strong Lifeline, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, and representatives of agricultural communities. Workers must be trained in suicide assessment, treatment and management, with content that takes into account recommendations from the crisis training and secondary trauma programs developed by the University of Washington. The bill also aims to support mobile rapid response crisis teams. 

Status: Passed the House on March 6. Passed the Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care March 28, passed the Senate Committee on Ways & Means April 3. Passed the Senate on April 8.


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WA HB 1564 Banning the sale of over-the-counter sexual assault kits

House Bill 1564 seeks to end the sale of self-collected over-the-counter sexual assault kits, which have traditionally not been admissible as evidence in court. State law already prohibits hospitals from charging for sexual assault forensic examinations, and these over-the-counter kits create false expectations as well as prolong trauma for sexual assault survivors. This bill would make the sale of such kits a violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

Status: Passed the House Feb. 27, passed Senate Committee on Law & Justice on March 22. Passed the Senate on April 7.

For more information on this bill, read this Crosscut story.

And this story focuses on bringing trauma-informed practices to assault cases.

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WA SB 5506 Supportive homes for people with disabilities

Senate Bill 5506 seeks to set up a housing program for intellectually and developmentally disabled adults. This Enhanced Behavior Support Homes Program would prevent those with extreme disabilities from possible mistreatment in places like temporary housing, hospital boarding or jail. Each support home would require 24-hour supervision of residents with a bevy of resident rights and requirements, as well as “program standards, design requirements, staffing structure, staff qualifications, and training.”

Status: Didn't make it out of the Senate. Appears to be dead.


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WA SB 5009: Requiring parental or legal guardian approval before a child participates in comprehensive sexual health education

Senate Bill 5009 seeks to require the written consent of a parent or legal guardian of a grade school student before the student’s sex education instruction at a public school. Starting in the 2023-24 school year, this proposal would make comprehensive sex education instruction an opt-in instead of opt-out as it has been. 

Status: Introduced in the Senate Jan. 9. Bill did not pass out of committee by the Feb. 17 cutoff. Appears to be dead.


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WA HB 1029: State workers and vaccine mandates

House Bill 1029 would give dismissed employees from executive branch state agencies pathways to reemployment if their dismissal was due to their refusal to get the COVID vaccine. The language of the bill argues that, especially considering the worker shortage, these dismissals only serve to deny the state qualified workers. 

Status: Introduced in the House Jan. 9. Did not pass out of the House committee by the Feb. 17 cutoff. Appears to be dead.


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WA HB 1469 Reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming treatment

House Bill 1469 aims to support those coming to Washington to receive health or gender-affirming care that may not be available in their home state. If a subpoena is requested to be issued related to protected health care services, then the state court would choose to ignore the request and prevent them from being made in the future. The same goes for witness summons, extraditions and private communications interceptions, with false attestations related to protected health care services carrying a fee of $10,000. Additionally, a claim for interference with protected health care services would be established.

Status: Passed the House Feb. 28. Passed the Senate Committee on Ways & Means April 3. Passed the Senate on April 10.

For more information on this bill, read this Crosscut story.

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WA HB 1155 Consumer health data practices

House Bill 1155 would give individuals greater control over their health information, including requiring more detailed disclosures on data collection, the right to access and delete their data and requiring consent before the sale of and restriction of outside access to said data. Geofencing, where data is used to track and target certain customers based on their health needs, would not be allowed. Companies must also have a health data privacy policy, easily accessible from their website home page, that shares what categories of health data are collected and shared and why health data is collected.

Status: Passed the House Mar. 4. Passed the Senate Committee on Law & Justice March 22. Passed the Senate on April 5.

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WA SB 5242 Preventing cost sharing for abortions

Senate Bill 5242 would change how cost sharing, or patient out-of-pocket costs,  would function while paying for an abortion. For most health insurance plans, including plans offered to public employees and their dependents, cost sharing would not be imposed to pay for an abortion. However, for qualifying health plans for health savings accounts, a minimum cost sharing amount must be detailed by the health plan so the enrollee can continue to claim tax-exempt contributions and withdrawals from their account.

Status: Passed the Senate Feb. 28, passed the House Committee on Health Care & Wellness on March 22. Passed the House Committee on Appropriations on March 31. Passed the House on April 7.

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WA HB 1340 Health professional disciplining standards

House Bill 1340 seeks to clarify what specific actions qualify as unprofessional conduct for health practitioners who are licensed under the Uniform Disciplinary Act. Namely, reproductive health care services and gender-affirming treatment, as long as the process was legal and entirely in Washington. This bill would also make it so that violating another state’s laws regarding reproductive health care services and gender-affirming treatment is not unprofessional conduct either.

Status: Passed the House Feb. 28. Passed the Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care on March 14. Passed the Senate on April 6.


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