COVID-19 has made 2020 especially difficult for our communities, families, and friends. It comes at a time of significant increases in substance abuse, depression, and suicide among our youth. Now, more than ever, we need to rely on each other.
I have been working on a Healthy Kids, Healthy Families agenda to help us support our youth, especially during this challenging year. As a result, we have successfully passed legislation to:
· Help schools and colleges respond to suicide and substance use crises by requiring the national crisis hotline on the back of school IDs. (HB 2589)
· Reduce trauma for kids in the foster system and create permanency for families by encouraging mentorships between caretakers and parents. (HB 2525)
· Provide a path to stability for families experiencing homelessness by extending the grace period for the Working Connections Childcare Program to 12 months. (HB 2456)
· Consolidate the Infants and Toddlers Program into one agency to more effectively provide early support for our littlest learners. (HB 2787)
· Improve education for children in the juvenile justice system, leading to better outcomes for kids and communities. (HB 2116)
· Equip the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Work Group to develop better behavioral health policies for our kids. This summer, I joined this work group as its new chair. (HB 2737)
As we stay home to protect our neighbors, we need to keep an eye on our kids’ emotional health. If you are worried about substance use you can find out more information on response and prevention at the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute.
The Washington State Department of Health also has resources for suicide prevention and intervention.
• Suicide Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
• Teen Link – 1-866-833-6546
• Crisis Text Line – Text “HEAL” to 741741
There is still a considerable amount of work to do to support the behavioral health needs in our community, especially for our youth. I am committed to doing everything I can to set people up for success.
Let’s help each other out by continuing to work together to support one another and slow the spread of COVID-19. We are in the midst of another spike and one thing is very clear. Continued spikes in the spread of the virus means further delays in getting our kids back to in-person school and getting our economy and local business community back on track. Help your neighbors by staying home as much as possible and support your local businesses in every safe way you can. When you do venture out, remember to wear a mask and keep at least six feet of distance between people. Let’s continue to keep each other safe and healthy.