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2023 Legislative Update: Budget & Advocacy

It is week 13 of the 2023 legislative session and we're less than a month from sine die (the last day of session). Below is a quick update on our legislative priorities and advocacy efforts.

Group of people holding signs in front of ornate capital building.
Representatives from Washington's community health centers convened in Olympia in February to share our priorities with legislators.

Budget Packages & Advocacy Opportunity

The Senate and House introduced their proposed operating and capital budgets and will now negotiate what will be included in the final version. We are supportive of the House budgets, which fully fund the dental capital projects, increase funding in loan repayment, and better fund coverage for those who are undocumented. More details on each of these priorities and an advocacy opportunity are outlined here.

Health insurance regardless of immigration status: The House version of the operating budget includes $95.6 million to create Medicaid-like health care coverage for uninsured adults with income up to 138% of the federal poverty level, regardless of immigration status. Both the amount and the approach in the House better meet the needs of low-income communities and consequentially coverage will be more affordable and accessible. Please join us in advocating to lawmakers to include this version in the final budget.

Loan repayment: The House budget includes $20 million in one-time funding increases, distributed between the Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program ($10 million) and the Behavioral Health Loan Repayment program ($10 million). Both programs are operated by the Washington Student Achievement Council.

Dental capital projects: The House’s capital budget fully funds all seven of our 2023 dental access projects. The Legislature has been funding capital projects for community health center dental clinics since 2017, expanding access to more than 115,000 patients. The seven projects below will expand access even further - reaching more than 12,400 additional people.

  • Columbia Valley Community Health: $1.85 million for a new dental clinic

  • HealthPoint: $490,000 for a dental expansion to their White Center medical clinic

  • Lake Roosevelt Community Health Center (Inchelium): $160,000 to replace two aging chairs and dental work stations (called operatories) in their Inchelium clinic

  • Lake Roosevelt Community Health Center (Keller): $80,000 to add a third operatory in their Keller clinic

  • Neighborcare: $1.8 million to fully renovate the dental facility at the 45th St. clinic

  • Peninsula Community Health Services: $495,000 for new dental equipment and an emergency power generator

  • Seattle Indian Health Board: $305,000 to expand dental services, doubling current capacity

Thank You CHCs for your Advocacy!

In February, we held our first in-person state Joint Legislative Days since 2020. More than 80 representatives from CHCs came to Olympia to share our legislative priorities with more than 120 state legislators. The participants include several board members of community health centers, who are in most cases, patients themselves.

"As an ICHS board member, I strongly believe that advocating for policy changes that benefit our patients and community is vital,” said Gildas Cheung, Board Chair at International Community Health Services. “Our collective voice holds great power and can shape policies that affect us."

Group photo in front of ornate capital building.
Members of the ICHS team (including Gildas, left, and CEO Kelli Nomura, second from right) in Olympia.

Thank you to all those who joined and shared stories that demonstrated the why behind our legislative

priorities. As a result of those in-person meetings and outreach CHCs have done since, all three of our main legislative priorities ended up in some form in the state budgets.

Nineteen community health centers joined us in Olympia, including: CHAS Health, CHC Snohomish, Columbia Basin Health Association, Community Health Care, Country Doctor Community Health Services, Cowlitz Family Health Center, Family Health Centers, HealthPoint, ICHS, Neighborcare, NEW Health, North Olympic Healthcare Network, Peninsula Community Health Center, Sea Mar Community Health Center, Seattle Indian Health Board, Unity Care NW, Valley View Health Center, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, and Yakima Valley Farmworkers Clinic.

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