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News > Advocacy > Back to Public Health Basics

Back to Public Health Basics

This year has provided a chance for public health to refocus and turn attention to several of their tried-and-true programs and services.
19 Jan 2024



The short session is off and running for public health. Unlike the past several sessions, where the pandemic and COVID-19 seemed to permeate every health-related topic, this year has provided a chance for public health to refocus and turn attention to several of their tried-and-true programs and services. As a result, several priority bills are already actively moving through the legislative process.

SB 5983: Medical Assistants and Syphilis Treatment

This is a WSALPHO-sponsored bill and has bi-partisan support in the Senate. SB 5983 will allow telehealth supervision of MAs to provide syphilis treatment in the field or in clinical settings. This is a critical step in increasing access to preventive medicine and protecting some of our most vulnerable from developing serious and life-long health problems. In areas where syphilis rates are high, local health officers will authorize this temporary flexibility in supervision. Currently, the supervising clinician must be physically present for the MAs to administer syphilis treatment. Testing and treating patients with syphilis where they are easiest to reach – often in the field as part of clinical outreach is critical.  5983 was heard Thursday morning in Senate Health and Longterm Care. We expect an amended version to move out of committee.

SB 6110: Modernizing the Child Fatality Review Team Statute

Through Foundational Public Health Services (FPHS) investments at the local level, 17 local health jurisdictions have been establishing child fatality review teams. These teams are an important community tool in the development of child injury and death prevention strategies. We are grateful that FPHS has been able to build up this capacity across the state, and as more local coordinators are hired, we’ve identified a couple of areas within the existing statute that are ambiguous, out of sync with other state fatality review statutes, and include outdated language per federal guidance. 6110 has a hearing scheduled for the 28th (Thursday) in Senate Human Services. This bill has strong bipartisan support.

HB 2157 / SB 5982: Updating the Definition of Vaccine for the WA Vaccine Association

Immunizations are a long-standing public health success that prevents life-long health complications from many diseases, making our population more resilient to outbreaks and health secure from infectious disease threats. The new proposed definition aligns with federal language and maintains an extremely rigorous testing process through the FDA and CDC to be licensed and approved. It is important to us that those safety measures remain in place. Without the purchasing program, providers – particularly those in small clinics and rural areas are at increased financial risk as well as administrative burden. They are less likely to purchase immunizations on their own as this can be a complicated and high-cost process. The program saves providers money while also maintaining access to preventive medicine for families that wish to have it. Both chambers have held hearings in their healthcare committees. The Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee voted the Senate bill out of their committee, so it is now headed to the floor.

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