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News > Advocacy > Public Health Day on the Hill!

Public Health Day on the Hill!

WSALPHO visited the "other" Washington to discuss the federal budget, public health needs, and the opioid crisis in our state.
1 Mar 2024

Washington went to the “other” Washington. The National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO) held its Leadership Week, with the final day culminating in Congressional visits. WSALPHO staff, Executive Leadership, and NACCHO Board representatives visited with many of our state’s districts to discuss the federal budget, public health needs, and the opioid crisis in our state. This is the one time a year where WSALPHO visits on federal issues, so the day was maximized!

Federal Issues Important to Local Public Health:

  • Reinforcing Public Health Infrastructure: Stable federal funding is critical to local health departments, which are the face of public health for their communities. Substantial federal investments bring efficiency to local programs so that all communities have equal access to public health services. Specific federal requests include:
    • Investments focused on workforce, data modernization, and enterprise readiness will create agile and adaptive systems that can pivot to emerging issues while addressing long-standing public health threats.
    • Funding that is specifically designated for local health departments elevates local voices in decision-making and direction-setting for states. Understanding state differences in local allocations and more transparency in disbursements will also improve spending accountability and implementation of core public health programs.
  • Invest in the Public Health Workforce: We must support our existing workforce and bring new staff into public health. Since 2020, Washington State has lost over 75% of its local leadership. A recent study by the DeBeaumont Foundation found that one-third of the workforce plans to leave the field over the next five years. And a troubling outcome of pandemic response – half of the current public health workforce reports symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and severe mental health needs.
    • Funding is needed to implement the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program, passed in 2023.
    • Public health experts must be protected from harassment and threats.
    • Federal public health guidance must be clear-consistent and science-based to support local prevention and response efforts.
  • Support a comprehensive opioid response approach. The consequences of addiction, dependency, and misuse are devasting to families, overwhelming first responders, and burdening our limited behavioral health system. We must have a comprehensive, aggressive, and coordinated approach from local, state, and federal governments to turn the tide on this crisis. Ongoing efforts that need federal support include:
    • Supporting legislation like the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act 2.0 (CARA) and broadening what local programs and services can be implemented with this funding.
    • Change SAMHSA’s intake and assessments from a 14-day requirement to a 90-day requirement to improve access to treatment and recovery.
    • Increase flexible funding to support a spectrum of harm reduction strategies that are responsive to community needs and supported by elected officials.
    • Update program rules and regulations for Medical-Assisted Treatment (MAT) modalities, access, and administration.

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