Dear friends and neighbors,

As chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, I encounter a wide range of people and families with a wide range of needs that require a wide range of services. The state works hard to meet those needs, but they are many – and that can make it difficult for someone to find or access the service to match a particular need.

So I’m happy to share some good news. First, finding and accessing those services has gotten easier. Second, I expect it to get even easier in the months to come.

Help Me Grow Washington, begun in 2014, has increased the ways it helps families with small children, providers and others find vital resources for health, food, basic needs, child development, parenting, pregnancy and childbirth., the group’s recently revamped online hub, has combined resources from multiple sites and made it easy to search them with a handy finder tool. Help Me Grow Washington is a network of non-profit organizations, Tribal nations, regional and county health and social service organizations, providers and provider organizations, and state agencies working together to increase access to information and resources statewide.

Other improvements include adopting “Help Me Grow” as the name for both hotline and website; adding content specifically for providers and partners, including an online referral form; and providing translation in four more languages (Russian, Vietnamese, Somali and Amharic in addition to English and Spanish). On every page, users have three options for finding support – they may search using the Resource Finder, fill out a form to see if they qualify for state benefits and receive a call-back, or call the hotline for more intensive and immediate support.

In the coming months, that search could become easier still.

A bill proposed earlier this session, SB 5943, would have directed the state to develop a phone application to help families seeking resources and services. I felt the legislation overlooked systems currently in place as well as work within state agencies to provide access for families along with critical infrastructure and technology. In place of SB 5943, I have proposed a budget proviso to fund a work group to study how we can more fully identify families’ needs and the best ways to meet them. The work group will benefit from the inclusion of valuable resources developed by Help Me Grow Washington and other platforms available to families across the state.

Meeting basic needs and supporting families is a critical piece of the human services and supports puzzle. Families need our help and children deserve our support. Help Me Grow Washington does both.