The Senate has passed legislation to create a task force to develop a pilot wellness program to address the health impacts of systematic inequities and discrimination.

“This is about opening the doors to the outdoors for communities that need healing, both physically and mentally,” said Sen. T’wina Nobles (D-Fircrest). “This is an issue of justice. In my work prior to the Legislature, I specifically focused on girls and our Black communities to provide healing from institutional racism and other trauma.”

Nobles’ Senate Bill 5292 will now be considered by the House.

The bill would direct the task force to establish advisory committees in multiple regions to explore ways to help people in disenfranchised communities deal with trauma through outdoor activity and lower the long-term costs of health care. The task force would consult with each advisory committee and report the findings to the governor and the Legislature by Sept. 1, 2022.

The task force would be appointed by the state Department of Health to include:

  • the Secretary of Health or a designee;
  • two representatives from local parks and recreation agencies;
  • two representatives who are health care providers and community health workers;
  • a member representing chiropractors and a member representing physical therapists;
  • two representatives from hospitals and health systems;
  • two members representing health carriers;
  • two representatives from local public health agencies; and
  • a representative from the Washington State Parks.

The task force would advise DOH on how to develop a pilot program with an emphasis on diverse communities and where systematic inequities and discrimination have negatively affected health outcomes. Currently, employers may provide incentives for employees who participate in wellness programs designed to promote health or prevent disease, or for meeting certain health targets. The task force would also be responsible for producing agreements that enable health insurers to offer outdoor usage incentives to public, non-profit, and private employers.