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News > Advocacy > A Session Full of Public Health – A Day of Action and a Session Focused on Prevention

A Session Full of Public Health – A Day of Action and a Session Focused on Prevention

Public health professionals and advocates convened in Olympia for the Washington State Public Health Association’s (WSPHA) Legislative Education Day on January 24, 2024.
2 Feb 2024
Advocacy

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Public health professionals and advocates convened in Olympia for the Washington State Public Health Association’s (WSPHA) Legislative Education Day on January 24, 2024. This event aimed to highlight the significance of public health in legislative discussions, providing attendees with insights into the legislative process and opportunities to engage with lawmakers. Participants heard from Representative Paul Harris – who provided a “behind the curtain” perspective of the session and tips for discussing public health topics across both sides of the aisle. With nearly every district represented, attendees shared stories illustrating the impact of foundational public health services funding, the public health role in opioid crisis response, and the importance of prevention and community-based policy in addressing key public health challenges.

Legislature Prioritizes Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis rages on in Washington - with two people dying every day from overdoses in 2022. The Legislature has taken up responding to this crisis as a top priority for both the House and Senate, with several proposals aimed at education and prevention. Additional bills provide a more comprehensive approach to addressing misuse, addiction, prevention, and treatment.

Here are a few of the many opioid crisis bills this year:

  • HB 1956: Would require the DOH to develop an annual substance use prevention and awareness campaign and would require OSPI to distribute prevention education materials to school districts. (Sponsor, Representative Leavitt – also Governor request legislation).
  • SB 5022: A carry-over from last year, this bill would exempt fentanyl test strips from the definition of drug paraphernalia. These test strips are an important tool in identifying fentanyl in other drugs, which increases the risk of overdose. (Sponsor, Senator, Muzzall)
  • SB 5804: This bill is, like others, focused on youth education but expands the education requirements to include all public, charter, and state-tribal compact schools to maintain at least one set of opioid reversal medication (like naloxone) on site (Sponsor, Senator Kuderer)
  • HB 2396: Called Ivan’s Law, Representative Mosbrucker’s bill would address the opioid crisis in four ways: A statewide education campaign, additional treatment pathways after incarceration, enhanced substance testing for hospitals, and contamination clean-up.
  • Budget: The Governor’s Budget included $64 million of additional support for the 2023-25 budget to address substance use disorder. We’ll see how this compares to both House and Senate budgets, but we anticipate both will have additional support for education/prevention campaigns, community-based prevention, treatment expansion and support, and enhanced recovery options.  

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