Late Wednesday evening the Senate Ways & Means Committee passed SB 6002, the 2014 Senate supplemental budget proposal. Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, amended that budget in committee to better support and protect vulnerable young people and children.
One Frockt amendment added $561,000 (and $693,000 from the federal government) to the budget to pay for Bright Futures autism screening for children at 18 months old as a part of the state’s Apple Health for Kids program. This investment is strongly supported by the Washington State Pediatricians and other children’s health groups. The American Academy of Pediatrics describes Bright Futures as “a national health promotion and disease prevention initiative that addresses children’s health needs in the context of family and community.” Nevertheless, neither of the proposed budgets from the Senate or the House had any funding for the Bright Futures protocol, despite Governor Inslee’s call for about $2 million in funding in his proposed budget.
“This investment is evidence-based and widely accepted as a vital screening for young kids and their families,” said Frockt. “My hope is that we can hold this investment in the final budget and raise the prospect of fully funding other aspects of Bright Futures in the years ahead. Despite having the very successful Apple Heath for Kids program, we don’t pay for all the appropriate and recommended screenings. I hope we can reverse this trend over time. This is a start.”
Additionally, Frockt increased funding for youth suicide prevention through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to $390,000 – an increase of $150,000 above the $240,000 for suicide prevention in the original budget. Another amendment he offered secured $200,000 to the budget to help the state’s Office of Public Guardianship. Administered by the courts, the Office of Public Guardianship provides guardians for people who are incapable of caring for themselves and protecting their own interests, lack the funds to pay private guardians and have no family or friends who can serve as volunteer guardians.
Frockt also ensured that the state will improve funding for Ryther, the critical non-profit in North Seattle that provides behavioral rehabilitation services to children who need acute mental health treatment.
“No budget can fund all that is needed, and they all have to be viewed in that light,” said Frockt. “However, I listened to the testimony, particularly on things like the need for additional counselors to prevent the tragedy of youth suicides, and I felt it was important to find some additional resources for these very critical needs. In particular, I hope that amendment will save lives. I appreciate both parties for agreeing to these vital amendments.”
Other amendments supported and passed by the committee included restoration of $1.8 million in public health funding cuts and an amendment by Sen. Andy Billig to fund the Reach Out and Read program for young children.
The budget proposal will be voted on the floor of the Senate on Thursday, and a final budget agreement will be negotiated between the Senate and the House’s budget proposal.