3-26 Bridge Coalition Meeting Notes

Opening Comments (Jim): 

  • Focusing on return to community: safe housing, relationships, and supporting their interests and passions
  • Formal Introductions were done in chat

The Bridge Scope and Vision (Vy): 

  • High rate of return to homelessness for young people exiting inpatient care
  • Cross-system information sharing and training
  • Developing Return To Community Plan
  • Developing opportunities for systems reform
  • Respect encouraged in this space

2024 Legislative Session Round Table:

Rep Cortes initiated a passionate discussion on the importance of SHB 1929, drawing from his prior experience at Cocoon House. With a keen insight into the challenges facing youth, he underscored the critical need for services tailored to those turning 18, recognizing the abrupt exits many face from existing programs and systems of care. He referenced data revealing that a staggering nearly 80% of young people leaving inpatient behavioral health facilities find themselves homeless within 3-12 months, highlighting the urgent necessity for proactive measures. For Rep Cortes, SHB 1929 represented not just an opportunity to save lives and invest in prevention but also a chance to significantly alleviate the state’s financial burden. In addition to advocating for preventative measures, Rep Cortes emphasized the importance of fostering relationships and dialogue with Tribal communities, recognizing their vital role in shaping effective support systems for youth.

Following Rep Cortes’s, Jim stepped in to provide further insight, shedding light on SHB 1929’s remarkable legislative journey. He highlighted the bill’s unanimous support and addressed feedback regarding the pressing need for more Bridge housing options. Jim stressed the importance of using lessons learned from the soon to be initial implementation of the first two houses to guide the expansion for future Bridge Housing programs.

Jim’s introduction of Rep Callan added another layer of depth to the discussion. He underscored her multifaceted involvement in various committees including the Child Youth Behavioral Workgroup, the Youth Human Services and Early Learning Committee, and the Capital Budget, each playing a crucial role in shaping policies and initiatives to support youth and young adults across WA.

Rep Callan’s subsequent remarks illuminated the successes achieved through collaborative efforts, particularly within the Child Youth Behavioral Workgroup recommendations. She emphasized the wins which included funding for community health care workers for more culturally responsive care, Mental Health literacy in Schools, direct behavioral health support, and education and promotion of well-being, as well destigmatization of mental health education in k-12 educational settings. Other areas of success included proviso language aimed at delving into the barriers hindering the provision of care for youth transitioning into adulthood with complex needs. Furthermore, plans are underway to produce comprehensive discovery reports shedding light on these barriers and identifying the necessary programs essential for supporting youth navigating the complexities of transitioning into adulthood.

Rep Callan’s insights extended beyond committee work, touching upon the capital and operating funding that was secured to help restructure and reopen the prior Daybreak Facility that was closed by the State because of problems with its delivery of services. Madrona, an Oregon based provider that specializes in substance use, residential care, and complex needs is interested in moving into this space and operating the former facility. The State is looking forward to expanding programs at the location, particularly considering the loss of 50 beds resulting from Daybreak’s closure. Madrona’s proposed model, aiming to reopen 45 beds, holds significant promise to help address the current gap in services.

There was close to $85 million dollars spent in the capital budget on behavioral health facilities across the state, the highest ever spent in a supplemental year. In those conversations it became clear that there are a few agencies interested in expanding into the youth and young adult space. The Healing Lodge was highlighted as a provider in eastern Washington.

The conclusion of the discussion was marked by a celebratory note, recognizing SHB 1929’s securing of ongoing maintenance funding as a significant milestone and achievement. Jim’s closing remarks reiterated the importance of supporting child welfare initiatives, emphasizing the need for family reconciliation community-driven solutions and targeted funding for BIPOC-run agencies.

Agency Spotlight- Northwest Youth Services and the Youth Action Board

Jason McGill, Executive Director, along with Eve, Director of Community Action, and Raven, a dedicated Youth Action Board member, illuminated the impactful work spearheaded by the Youth Action Board (YAB) and Northwest Youth Services (NWYS).

The YAB, under NWYS’s umbrella, serves as a beacon of hope and support for youth and young adults in Whatcom & Skagit county. Through various initiatives such as outreach efforts and a pen pal program catering to incarcerated youth, the YAB extends its reach far beyond traditional boundaries. Importantly, it acts as a conduit for accessing vital community services, providing a platform for individuals to come together, share lived experiences, and offer invaluable feedback and solutions to tackle the pervasive issue of youth homelessness.

Raven eloquently articulated the transformative power of being part of a system geared towards helping others, shedding light on the systemic changes necessary for true progress. Notably, Raven emphasized the often-overlooked demographic of older individuals who have aged out of support systems, underscoring the urgent need for systemic reforms to prevent further disenfranchisement.

Jason provided a brief overview of NWYS, rooted in a Philosophy of Healing, with a steadfast focus on individuals aged 13-25 experiencing homelessness. Described as a “love warrior movement,” NWYS operates various sites and drop-in centers, offering a plethora of wrap-around care services tailored to the diverse needs of youth. Exciting new initiatives on the horizon, such as the Q center which will focus on providing services for queer and trans youth, and the Omni center serving as a creative haven for BIPOC youth, highlight NWYS’s commitment to inclusivity and empowerment.

Community Updates:

Closing Comments:  

  • Jim mentioned emailing a NorthStar Advocate directly to receive a stipend if you identify as person with lived experience who is not being compensated by another organization,
  • Jim thanked everyone for their support and participation in this work.
Sarah Spier
Author: Sarah Spier