Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Session has been out for about a month, and I have remained busy this interim. Aside from returning to my job as a dentist providing care to nursing home residents, I have attended several meetings and begun working on several bills to introduce for next year. So far, I've:
- Provided a review of the session with the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Key Peninsula Business Association.
- Met with Project Access Northwest and key stakeholders to develop a solution to the lack of dental Medicaid providers and increased use of hospitals for dental care.
- Spoke at the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) Summit in Seattle to lawmakers across the country on foster care issues and joined in the Early Learning Roundtable Discussion.
- Toured dozens of schools in my district and met with teachers and principals in those schools.
- Met with key stakeholders in the mental health, judicial and corrections systems to work on solutions to improve care to our mentally ill and reduce the incidence of hospitalization and incarceration.
If you'd like to have me speak to your group or organization, please contact my office to arrange a time that works for both our schedules.
Many problems we have in our state are complex and involve thoughtful solutions that do not happen overnight. I have always believed that working collaboratively with a diverse group of people produces the best ideas and outcomes, and have started working with the following groups.
Foster care and Kids Kaucus
As you know, foster care issues are close to my heart, as a former foster youth and as a foster mother. There is so much more we can do to help foster kids and foster families.
I have partnered with Rep. Tom Dent from Moses Lake to meet with various children's organizations across our state and come up with solutions to some of the problems we have in our foster care system. This group is called Kids Kaucus, and we are coordinating meetings between foster parents and foster youth with lawmakers in their areas to learn first-hand about their experiences.
These meetings have inspired a Foster Parent Bill of Rights bill which would prioritize placement of children back to the original foster home if the child was returned to their biological families, then re-entered the foster care system.
In 2013, I advocated to reinstate adult dental Medicaid and presented a plan to lawmakers that would improve the infrastructure to allow for Medicaid expansion. It would have also added a teaching component similar to other programs like WIC and ABC Dental to reduce the no-show rate, improve the retention of providers and reduce the incidence of decay. Unfortunately, the Legislature simply added the line item to reinstate adult dental without a comprehensive plan to solve the access problem. I am currently working on a bill to reform our current Medicaid system and to focus on education and prevention.
One of the problems for people with mental illness is that if there is a crisis and they enter our corrections system, there is poor coordination of care, if any, with their mental health providers. As a result, a mentally ill person who is incarcerated frequently will not receive the appropriate medication and dosage. This gap in care often results in an increase in crisis after they are released back into society. I am working on a bill to coordinate the medical care and prescriptions of mental health patients once they become incarcerated.
Earlier this year, I heard about a case of a runaway horse nicknamed “Runaway Ray” on the Key Peninsula that was rescued by a family in the community. Unfortunately, when the caring family reported him found to animal control, the county was required under state law to take him and put him up for auction. The family and other community members banded together to buy Ray at an auction, which I attended and was happy to see. Thanks to the help of the Key Pen Community, I am looking into changing the law so loving, capable families can keep roaming livestock when the owners can't be located. Here's more information about the story.
Task force with teachers
After touring dozens of schools in my area and hearing from teachers about complex and deep-rooted problems we have in our educational system, I decided to reach out to them to help me come up with solutions on how to fix some of these problems. I was inspired by the overwhelming amount of support I have received from teachers and put together a diverse group of educators of different grades and disciplines to form an Education Task Force. I'm hopeful we can put together some meaningful legislation before the next session in January that will help students and teachers succeed.
In addition to these issues, I want to hear about what's important to you. Listening to your needs and priorities for state government are crucial to my job representing you. Please contact my office with your questions, comments and suggestions. It's an honor to serve you.