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A continued conversation with Jessika Houston, Arc of Whatcom County

At WithinReach, we get to engage with families who are on a wide spectrum of places in their journey with a diagnosis of a special health or developmental need. Sometimes a family is just learning of a diagnosis prenatally, and sometimes they have many years of experience. The Arc of Washington and its nine regional chapters are excellent resources for families who are looking to connect around developmental disabilities, wherever they are on their journey.

We spoke with Jessika Houston, Down syndrome Outreach and Young Adult Self-Advocacy Coordinator at the Arc of Whatcom County to learn more about how she works with individuals and families with developmental disabilities:

“Down syndrome Outreach is a program that exists for individuals with Down syndrome, their family members, friends and caregivers from birth through life. We provide resources, information, advocacy support, and connect families and individuals in our community to support one another on their journey. There are annual support events specific to Down syndrome Outreach (DsO), such as the Buddy Walk in October and the Spring Fling in May.

On World Down syndrome Day (which is March 21), our community helps to bring awareness to their schools and work places about Down syndrome. The goal is to focus on honoring and appreciating our differences, all of them, and therefore encouraging the celebration of our differences and bringing support to all ages. In Whatcom County, there is a vision of change and inclusion for future generations. This has really determined the focus of an aspect of the work I do with DsO, which is to support new families.

When I started at The Arc I heard from our community the need to strengthen the supports for new families with a diagnosis of Down syndrome. There are many misconceptions and stereotypes about people with disabilities, and as Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition, we are able to learn of the diagnosis in the prenatal and postnatal stages.

The opportunity to provide support and resources at the time of diagnosis is one that historically has been missed in the Down syndrome community worldwide. In addition, many families have experienced negative interactions when receiving the diagnosis, with a lack of support and resources.

If families receive the diagnosis and then are told to seek out their own resources, they are vulnerable to inaccurate and prejudicial information. This does not fully engage and support this new family. Despite the challenges, countless families and self-advocates have been propelled from their experiences and helped to create policy which has shifted the dynamic in which families receive support.

In June 2016 in Washington State, the Down syndrome Information Act was passed in legislature. The law came forth because self-advocates spoke out about the impact on their families, and their vision of necessary support to new families.

The 2016 Down syndrome Information Act states: Medical Professionals are to provide materials to families at time of birth or pre-natal stages in delivering a likelihood of a diagnosis. Medical professionals affected by this bill are: midwife, osteopathic physician and surgeon & osteopathic physician’s assistant, physician & physician assistant, nurse, genetic counselor, hospitals, birthing centers & anyone/place in above categories that provide a parent with a prenatal or postnatal diagnosis. The WA State Department of Health has been working in response to this Law, and I have had the chance to connect with them in detail to discuss how we can ensure it is accessible and followed through by medical professionals in Washington State.

This past March, we held a statewide webinar regarding this issue. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of something that we can now utilize as a resource supporting new families across the state. It has been incredible to see different communities and organizations from all over Washington come together to connect about these important issues to empower families and improve systems of care and support.

Before this law was passed, connecting with medical professionals and providing resources to them about this condition, is something I worked to bring to our local community. I have had the chance to present to various meetings with obstetricians, nurses, and midwives, and will continue this work as practitioners become more familiar with this new law. The main message I hope to convey to medical professionals is that the support, resources, and language that is used to give the diagnosis greatly impacts how the family will view their child and how they will utilize the resources available to them.

Through this work I have learned that by opening up our perspectives and working to be a resource, we are able to create systems of support that will sustain through time. They will persevere, find strength and challenges in new and unexpected ways and help transform thinking that includes all abilities and backgrounds.”

You can find more information about this work at the Department of Health here: http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/InfantsandChildren/HealthandSafety/GeneticServices/DownSyndrome

And read more about the programs at the Arc of Whatcom County here: http://arcwhatcom.org/

 

Tags: Advocacy   care   community resources   Developmental support   diagnosis   Disability   Down syndrome   Down syndrome Information Act states   Down syndrome Outreach   education programs   empower   families   improve systems   intellectual & developmental disabilities   Medical Professionals   support   The Arc   Washington state   Whatcom County   Young Adult   

The Ins and Outs of Basic Food

Written by Signe Burchim, WithinReach AmeriCorps Outreach & Enrollment Specialist

One of the many programs that our talented Outreach and Enrollment team assists people with is the Basic Food program. Basic Food, formerly known as food stamps, is Washington’s version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program. The program helps families (and individuals) supplement their grocery budget each month and put more wholesome, delicious food on the table.

So how does this program actually work?
For starters, long gone are the days of the program being administered on actual stamps, or paper: the benefits are administered on a plastic electronic benefits transfer card (typically called an EBT card), that looks just like a debit card, and comes with a pin number. Each month, benefits are loaded onto your card on the same day and are ready to use!

2017 Income guidelines (effective 4/1/2017):

Oftentimes, we hear from clients that they are hesitant to sign up for the basic food program for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, there are quite a few misconceptions floating around, and I would like to clear some of those up!

Some of the most common things we hear from clients:

“I’m not eligible because I don’t have a family” – You do not have to have a family, or children to be on basic food. If you are single, as long as you meet all of the other requirements, you are eligible for the program.

“I’m not eligible because I am a college student” – Students are not typically eligible for the program but there are some exceptions.

  • Students employed for an average of 20 hours per week (80 hours per month).
    – Unpaid internships do not count.
  • Students responsible for more than half of the care for a dependent under five.
  • Students that are single parents who have a child that is eleven or younger.
  • Students participating in WorkFirst.
  • Students participating in a work study program.

“It is not worth signing up because I will have a low benefit amount” – Low benefit amounts may also help you qualify for other programs, like low-cost cell phone service, or free/reduced price lunch for children in school. Benefits also roll over every month, so you can save them up for something special like a holiday, or birthday party.

“Someone else needs this benefit more than I do” – Basic Food is an entitlement program, which means that anyone who is eligible can get it without taking away benefits from someone else, and unused money is not allocated to other families.

“Not everyone in my family is a citizen” – You can apply for the members in your household who meet the citizenship requirements – for example, if three people are eligible, and two are not, the three that meet the eligibility requirements would receive benefits.

“There are too many restrictions on what food you can buy” – Nope, there are no restrictions on the brands or types of food you can buy. The choice is yours! However, you cannot purchase alcohol, or hot food from the deli that has been prepared for you.

If you think you might be interested in enrolling in, or learning more about the Basic Food program, or any other nutrition assistance programs, give us a call on our Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588!

Tags: Basic Food   Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card   Enrollment   Family Health Hotline   food   food benefits   food program   Food security   food stamps   SNAP   Washington state   

Giving Every Child a Shot at Life

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Shot@Life Champion Summit, a gathering of vaccine advocates from across the country who come together each year to learn about the crucial role the U.S. plays in supporting global immunizations. Advocates also learn the powerful impact of advocacy through trainings and meetings with Congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

Shot@Life, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation, aims to ensure that children around the world have access to life-saving vaccines. The campaign works to build a group of Champions (advocates), who will dedicate their voices, time, and support to standing up for childhood in developing countries.

At the Summit, I heard from several Champions who are experts in the areas of vaccines, global health, and international development. The most powerful speaker for me was Geeta Rao Gupta, a senior fellow at the UN Foundation who has worked to improve the lives of women and girls around the world. She focused on the value of vaccines for women, and not just in the obvious ways, like preventing cervical cancer. “When we talk about the statistics of infant mortality, we rarely talk about grief,” she said. She shared the heartbreaking story of her great-grandmother, who died of tuberculosis in her early thirties after losing five of eleven children in their infancies. I don’t think many of us living in Washington today can imagine how painful these losses must have been for her. And while it can be easy, in our day-to-day work, to focus on the numbers and rates, it’s a powerful reminder of why those numbers and rates matter. Dr. Gupta reminded us that vaccines don’t just “save lives” – they prevent grief, and allow mothers to focus their energies on caring for healthy children.

Dr. Gupta emphasized how fortunate we are to live during the age that we do, with advancements in vaccines and general health. However, developing countries are still in need of these valuable resources. And where vaccines could prevent an estimated 2.5 million deaths among children younger than age 5 around the globe, 1 child still dies every 20 seconds from a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine. Therefore, the U.S. strives to provide access and education around vaccines through a variety of ways. Did you know the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is key in leading worldwide efforts to eradicate polio and measles? Or that USAID is a key partner of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which creates immunization access for the world’s poorest countries, immunizing half a billion children? Even the U.S.’s contribution to UNICEF helps save lives, as they deliver vaccines to 45% of the world’s children. The U.S. is a leader in providing vaccine assistance globally, as well as here at home by providing funding to various organizations working at the community level.

Being a local organization that promotes immunizations, our work at WithinReach is also part of a global community. We’re reminded of that every year, as American travelers bring back vaccine-preventable diseases from across the globe. “Disease anywhere is disease everywhere” with our interconnected world and the ease of travel. Diseases that have been long rare at home are still prevalent in many other areas of the world. That is why it is important that we advocate and create awareness around vaccine-preventable diseases through our community members, our partners and state leaders. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can help every child have a shot at life, check out shotatlife.org.

Tags: childhood immunizations   Community Health   global health   immunizations   Shot@Life   vaccines   Washington state   WithinReach   

New frontiers in vaccine hesitancy research: a border-spanning collaboration

An exciting project is taking shape at WithinReach. After nine years of extraordinary work in the vaccine hesitancy field, Vax Northwest is embarking on a new project, and we’re doing so with new partners—
a wide range of researchers from, or interested in, the midwifery community who come from both the United States and Canada.

Midwives are a very influential group of health care providers. Midwives attend 8.3% of births in the United States [1], but their knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about vaccines have not been robustly studied. Likewise, we know very little about the people who seek care from the midwifery community. In our attempt to engage as many leverage points as possible in building vaccine confidence, Vax Northwest has elected to focus on the midwifery community.

On January 10th, more than 20 researchers and practitioners from the fields of midwifery, naturopathy, allopathic medicine, public health, pediatrics, and anthropology, among others, came together at WithinReach to define a research agenda related to midwives (and other perinatal providers to a lesser extent). We had a rich and varied conversation that culminated in three research questions that Vax Northwest and our partners will address going forward:

    1) What are the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of midwives toward vaccines? (Are they advocates of vaccines?
    Do they want to be advocates of vaccines? What support is needed to become better vaccine advocates?)

    2) What are the characteristics of people who seek midwifery care? (Are they more likely to be vaccine hesitant? Are they dissatisfied with ‘traditional’ medicine?)

    3) What is the vaccination status of children in Washington, by the type of provider who attended their birth (midwife, physician, etc.)? Is there an association between provider type and immunization status?

“As an observer, it was a fascinating experience to listen to experts in various fields discuss current information and determine what new information is needed before deciding on specific research questions. Since the influence of the midwifery community on the decision to vaccinate children has not been studied, it will be exciting to see how these new research questions will help us better understand vaccine hesitancy” noted Cristina Cardenas, a WithinReach AmeriCorps service member, who participated in the meeting and has a special interest in immunizations.

Making policy, decisions, or interventions based off anecdotal evidence can be ineffective, or even worse, backfire. That’s why Vax Northwest has such a strong focus on creating a research foundation before we act. After several years of sharing the informative and well-received results of our previous research, we’re excited to be breaking new ground with this project and adding to the vaccine hesitancy research base. As always, we’ll do so in collaboration with the right partners with the goal of keeping all Washington families thriving and healthy.

Stay tuned for more updates!

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_12.pdf

Tags: Canada   immunizations   midwife   midwifery care   research   vaccines   Vax Northwest   Washington state   

U.S Depts of Education and Health Endorse Help Me Grow System Model

Twenty years ago, a model for building a comprehensive, statewide, coordinated system for connecting at-risk kids and families to services and resources was piloted in Connecticut. That model was called Help Me Grow, and it has since been tested, refined, and replicated across 28 states nationwide under the amazing leadership of the Help Me Grow National Center. In 2010, Washington State became the 8th state affiliate for the Help Me Grow model and WithinReach was appointed as the official state affiliate and organizing lead.

Last month, the success of the HMG model was highlighted in a new joint policy statement released by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. The statement includes a recommendation for states to adopt a centralized intake, screening and referral process, specifically naming the Help Me Grow® system model.

The report notes that Help Me Grow is a “non-federal system that assists states in identifying children at risk for developmental and behavioral concerns and then helps families find community-based programs and services. HMG is a system that helps to build collaboration across sectors, including health care, early care and education, and family support.”

Since becoming an affiliate, WithinReach has acted as the central access point for families, expanding our resource directory, service delivery and collection of data that informs systems change. As the other model components hinge upon a strong central access point, this lays a critical foundation for future provider and community outreach efforts.

Our very first Help Me Grow family was Ginelle and Chloe. Navigating through complex social and health systems while trying to find the resources you and your family need to be healthy is overwhelming. The story of our work together with Ginelle to ensure Chloe received all of the care she needed is highlighted in our Help Me Grow program video.

The Help Me Grow model is a simple solution that builds on existing resources. Through comprehensive physician and community outreach and centralized information and referral centers, families are linked with needed programs and services. Ongoing data collection and analysis helps identify gaps in and barriers to the system.

Through participation in regional and statewide partnerships, WithinReach has raised visibility of this valuable model and cultivated interest in family-centered resource connection. As grants and projects permit, Washington partners (such as the State Departments of Health and Early Learning, Washington State Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and regional early learning coalitions) work to promote developmental screening, quality referral processes, and meaningful cross-sector coordination. As noted in the report, a cross-sector model helps systems to “maximize service delivery and resources, ensure that families get needed services, and ultimately improve outcomes to change the developmental trajectory of vulnerable infants and toddlers.”

We are heartened by the endorsement of U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services for other states to adopt the Help Me Grow model because we’ve seen it do great things for kids in Washington. Every family deserves access to the right resources when they need them. To learn more about Help Me Grow in Washington, visit parenthelp123.org. Or, learn more about the Help Me Grow National Center.

Tags: Help Me Grow   US Department of Education   US Department of Health   Washington state   

How to choose a health insurance plan

Health insurance Washington state
Written by Cristina Cardenas, AmeriCorps Outreach & Enrollment Specialist
Open Enrollment is well under way, which means that it’s time to sign up for health insurance! But with so many options out there, how can you possibly decide? Here are a few questions to think about to help you choose the best insurance plan for you and your family!

 

Your doctor
Do you have a specific doctor’s office or clinic in mind?
What plans are currently accepted by that doctor or clinic?

While picking an insurance plan, one of the most important factors is being able to use that insurance for services at a clinic or doctor’s office with which you would like to work. If you have a specific health clinic or provider in mind, you’ll want to make sure they accept the insurance you choose. While shopping on Washington Healthplanfinder, the health insurance marketplace for Washington state, you can check which insurance plans are accepted by clicking “Add”, listed under “Health Care Provider” in the “My Search” box, located on the upper left-hand side of the QHP selection screen. You will be able to search by your provider’s name, hospital, or zip code. Be sure to call the office to confirm if the plan is accepted and get the most updated information!

Medical needs
Do you have any chronic health conditions or specialty care needs?
Are any of your typical medical needs listed under the excluded services?

Although all health insurance plans listed on the exchange are required to cover the Ten Essential Benefits, you’ll want to spend some time looking into the details of the plans you are considering to see what other services may or may not be covered. This is especially important if you have any specific medical needs or services you know you will be seeking. You’ll want to make sure the plan you pick is going to work the best for you and your health.
To see more details about the plan, click the link that says “More information on this plan,” located under the name of each plan option on the shopping page of Washington Healthplanfinder.

Cost considerations
What is your monthly budget for health insurance?
Are there any tax credits and/or cost-sharing available to you?

There are many factors to consider when deciding which health insurance plan might be most affordable for you or your family. Every plan has a different amount for what you must pay from your own pocket before the insurance company will help you pay for your healthcare. There are five insurance payment terms to keep in mind:

  • Premium—the monthly payment you make to ensure you have coverage.
  • Deductible—the amount you will need to pay yourself for healthcare services before the insurance company starts to pay for healthcare costs.
  • Copayment—An amount you pay for a covered healthcare service after the deductible has been met. This may vary depending on the service.
  • Co-Insurance—the percentage of the bill you are responsible for before the deductible is reached. For example, a 20% co-insurance means that you pay 20% of the bill and the insurance company pays 80%.
  • Out-of-Pocket Max—the maximum amount you can pay in a year. After this is reached, all covered services will be paid for by the insurance company

At first glance, a low monthly premium might seem like the most affordable option, but these plans tend to come with a higher deductible. That means that if you have an unplanned medical need or accident, you may end up paying more out of your own pocket since the deductible needs to be met before the insurance company will help you pay.
You might also qualify for help paying for your insurance through government subsidies. If your income is under 400% of the federal poverty level (or $8,100/month for a family of four), you may qualify for tax credits that help pay for the monthly premium, or cost-sharing reduction to help reduce your out of pocket expenses!
On Washington Healthplanfinder, you are able to customize your search using the categories on the left-hand side and narrow your selections to plans within the range of what you may be comfortable paying. You can also see more detailed information about the cost

Plan flexibility
What is the size of the network for this plan?
Do I have to stay “in-network?
Will I need a referral to see a specialist?

Another aspect to keep in mind while picking a health insurance plan is the type of network available to you. The plan network includes physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers that have agreed to provide medical services at pre-negotiated prices and rates. There are three different categories:

  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)—This type of plan limits coverage to care from doctors who work for the insurance organization. Services by providers outside of the network will most likely not be covered. Your doctor, or primary care physician as they are usually called, will help to coordinate your care and provide referrals to see specialists.
  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)—In this type of plan, you will save more money seeking services from providers who are part of the plan’s network. You can see doctors, hospitals, and/or specialist outside of the network without a referral, but they may end up costing you more.
  • Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)—This plan will require you to see providers within the network to have your services covered. Any services by out-of-network providers will not be covered.

Each of these types of plans have their pros and cons, so to help you make a decision, you’ll want to ask yourself how flexible you would like your health insurance plan to be.

Even with a list of questions to help you find the best plan, we here at WithinReach realize that it can still be overwhelming to sift through all the information. That is why we are here to help! By calling our Family Health Hotline at (800) 322-2588, we can walk you through the whole application process and help you narrow down your plan options.

Tags: ACA   health insurance   Health insurance enrollment   Open Enrollment   Washington HealthPlanFinder   Washington state   

Fighting Holiday Hunger

food stamps child

Written by Signe Burchim, WithinReach AmeriCorps Outreach & Enrollment Specialist

‘Tis the season where everything seems to revolve around food. If you feel like you don’t have enough food this season, WithinReach is here to help! Over the phone on our Family Health Hotline, we can help connect you to plenty of different food resources to put food on the table this holiday season. We do screening for basic food eligibility, basic food application assistance, as well help locate food banks and farmer’s markets in your area.

Our AmeriCorps in-person outreach team recently started going to the state of the art, newly located University District food bank. While we are still in the process of building trust and relationships with the patrons of the food bank, it has been really rewarding to get to know the people there and understand the specific needs of the diverse University District community. I recently met a client there that was going to a food bank for the very first time, and didn’t know anything about the process. The front desk staff at the food bank sent them back to me for information about enrolling in the basic food program. The client was certain that they would be over-income, but after a quick screening I determined they were likely eligible and assisted them as they filled out an application in about ten minutes. The client left the food bank with shopping bags full of groceries, and a bulk of new information on food resources to keep their family happy, and healthy. Many people are worried that signing up for Basic Food may take too long, or that it isn’t worth the hassle. The truth is the benefits far outweigh the ten minutes it takes to complete an application, and opens the door to access a number of food assistance options.

Let’s review some of the food options we have in Washington State!

Basic Food: The basic food program, which you may also know as SNAP, food stamps, or EBT, is a great resource for people looking to supplement their food supply. The basic food program can be used to purchase food items, and is widely accepted by many different grocery stores like Safeway, QFC, Trader Joe’s, and Target, as well as many small drug stores and local grocers with culturally competent food items. Most places that accept EBT benefits will have a sign outside!

Already on Basic Food and have a low benefit amount?: The good news is that your benefits roll over from month to month, and the holidays are a great time to save up some of your food benefits to use them for special occasions, like a big holiday dinner for you and your family/friends. A low benefit amount of $16 might seem like it doesn’t help much on a month to month basis, but when you’re planning ahead and saving your benefits, that $16 can easily multiply and make all the difference.

Fresh bucks: Another benefit of the basic food program is Fresh Bucks! Fresh Bucks is a program through the King County farmer’s markets that will match your basic food dollars (for every $2 you are willing to spend they will match it up to $10). This is a great way to get fresh, in-season vegetables this holiday season. Fun fact: broccoli, brussels sprouts, potatoes, squash, and cauliflower are all in currently in season and are a great addition to any holiday meal.

Food banks: Forget what you know about food banks: they have so much more than just canned green beans and spaghetti noodles. Food banks have a lot of the winter delicacies you’re looking for this holiday season. For example, the University District food bank has fresh flowers, greeting cards, egg-nog, and a wide selection of breads, meats, and vegetables. Most food banks will just require that you bring your photo ID along with proof of address from the last 30 days (this can be waived if you are homeless), so they can make sure you’re using the food bank meant for your neighborhood.

Why apply now?: Utilizing these programs that are available to you are a great way to save some extra money during the winter months. As the temperature goes down, heating bills and other expenses are on the rise. The more food you get on the table the more money you are able to save for a rainy day!

If you are interested in learning more about food resources and programs, or feel you are ready to complete an application – give us a call today on our Family Health Hotline at 1 (800) 322-2588. Our friendly staff is available from 8:00am-5:00pm Monday – Thursday, and Fridays from 8:00am-5:00pm. If you need help locating a food bank or farmers market near you, go to ParentHelp123.org

Tags: Basic Food   Food banks   food stamps   Seattle   Washington state   

Celebrating, Learning and Leaping

As the leaves turn colors and fall from the trees, I am reminded in this season more than any other, that life is a series of beginnings and endings and beginnings. This is how it goes. There are things to celebrate and things to grieve, there are old journeys to remember and learn from, and there are new ways of thinking to be explored.
In this season of reflection, we are doing just that. We are looking back and celebrating the things we accomplished over the past 3 years to help families across Washington live healthier, safer lives. Astoundingly, over the last three years our staff informed more than 1,000,000 people about critical health and nutrition supports available to them.

More specifically, we helped more than 32,000 families enroll in health insurance, and nearly 18,000 access in the WIC nutrition program. In addition, we provided 232,000 families with information on immunizations, informed 174,000 families about local breastfeeding resources, and provided 227,000 families with information on free summer meals programs in their neighborhoods. Beyond the numbers, we helped set the stage for a coordinated statewide Help Me Grow network, became recognized as national experts in addressing vaccine hesitancy, and our Healthy Connections Model is widely known to be an effective and efficient model for addressing the social determinants of health.

Now we are looking ahead and exploring, as Seth Godin says, “the space between where we are now, and where we want to be, ought to be, are capable of being.” He describes this as a gap between our reality and our possibility, and notes that if we imagine the gap as a huge gulf or crevasse we will surely be paralyzed.

Rather he suggests that “the magic of forward movement is seeing the space as leap-sized, as something that persistent, consistent effort can get you through.” Herein is the grace—our work is to hold tight to a strong vision, while taking one step at a time toward a new reality.

Over the next several months our Board and Staff will work together to define a new 3-year strategic direction for our work. We know we want our new direction to be nimble and bold, in every way rooted in our strong history of service, capacity-building and advocacy, and inspired by our unending belief that every family deserves to be healthy and safe.

We look forward to having you join us on the journey ahead, in leap-sized strides, making sure that every family can be healthy and safe!

Tags: benefit programs   health insurance   hunger   Public Health   Washington state   WithinReach   

What’s new with the HPV vaccine?

You may have heard that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices approved a 2-dose HPV vaccination series, a change from the previous 3-dose series. This recommendation was immediately adopted by the Centers for Disease Control, meaning the 2-dose series is now the official recommendation nationally.
This news is especially exciting because Washington State has struggled to bring up our HPV vaccination rates, and eliminating the third dose should greatly improve our overall rate of teens fully protected from HPV. Though there are some details that health care providers need to be aware of, if an adolescent starts/started the series before age 15, and it has been at least five months since the first does for those who already started the series, they’re good to go with two doses.
The exciting implication of this change is that it makes everything simpler. Adolescents, who do not typically have routine primary care appointments as often as younger kids, will have to schedule one less visit to their health care provider—meaning parents won’t have the hassle associated with a provider visit, either. Adolescents particularly don’t love shots, so poking them one less time is appealing for all involved as well! The costs of time away from work and school, transportation, etc. will also be reduced. We’re also optimistic that the chance to be fully protected by only two doses will motivate more parents to have their children immunized at the recommended age, 11-12, rather than waiting until they’re older, when their immune response may not be as robust and they run a higher risk of already being exposed to HPV.
Why, you might ask, are we making the transition to a 2-dose series? Well…
  • Evidence shows that adolescents mount a particularly strong immune response to the HPV vaccine if it’s given early. After age 15, the response begins to be weaken, so 3 doses are still needed for those ages 15-26.
  • Previously, we only had robust research on a 3-dose series, but new evidence evaluating 2 doses is available and indicates long-lasting protection when it’s received through age 14. Two doses will protect younger adolescents just as much as three doses will protect older adolescents.

We encourage you, immunizer or otherwise, to spread the word about this change. We know that the clinical community will hear about this change via the usual channels, but word trickles down to kids themselves less quickly, so be a part of spreading the message! And remember, the most important talking point is that HPV prevents several cancers in both men and women—a cancer-preventing vaccine is one of the greatest gifts we can give to today’s adolescents.

Vaccines for children through 18 years old are free in Washington State, including the HPV vaccine. To find a health care provider, visit ParentHelp123.org or call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

Tags: Cancer Prevention   HPV vaccine   immunizations   ParentHelp123   Washington state   

Podcast: Open Enrollment is here!

WithinReach podcast

We’re talking about Open Enrollment for health insurance on this episode of the WithinReach Podcast. There’s a lot of information packed into this episode; here are some of the sites we referenced so you can learn more:

Washington HealthPlanFinder
Blog post on Qualifying Life Events
ParentHelp123.org

And as always, you can call our Family Health Hotline at 1(800) 322-2588 for assistance.

Tags: Family Health Hotline   health insurance   Open Enrollment   Washington Health Benefit Exchange   Washington HealthPlanFinder   Washington state   

Dad’s Role in Back to School Transition

As the summer swiftly winds down and families transition back into a school schedule, parents often settle into roles depending on their individual strengths and partnership style. Perhaps it is Lead Paperwork Organizer, Transportation Facilitator, Supply Coordinator, Head Chef, Morale Booster, or a combination of all the above!

Thinking about the roles we fulfill as part of family organization prompted me to reach out to Louis Mendoza at the WA State Fathers Network to learn more about a particular perspective: Dads! Louis had so many great things to share, so I wanted to share them with you as well. Here are some highlights from our conversation:

Jen: To start out, can you tell me a little bit about the Washington State Fathers Network?
Louis: Sure, the Father’s Network got started in 1978 and was actually an assignment to a couple of grad students at UW. It kept going as a network and later in 1985 they were looking for a new home and wound up at Kindering. At one point it was the National Fathers Network, and over time it shifted focus to Washington State. Now there are chapters all over the state, including Seattle, Bellevue, Bothell, Chelan, Spokane, and Everett. Basically the network connects fathers of children of any age with special health care needs with each other, and connects them to resources, information and education to assist them as they become more competent and compassionate caregivers for their children. The connection component is done by introducing dads to other dads through meetings, social events like camp-outs, pancake breakfasts, poker games, or a super bowl party. Some events are specifically for men and some for the whole family.If we have a father call for a specific need, we will help him with that need. Other times I send out information to dads that would be beneficial, like workshops or events. Recent examples include a soapbox derby race geared toward children with special health care needs, or local theaters and museums with low sensory events.
J: That sounds great! Why do you think there is a need for Dads groups, and particularly Dads with children who have special health care needs?
L: Each parent–mom or dad–brings their own strengths and perspectives, but some general things bring dads to the network. One of those is the issue of how they get support. Generally, between the mom and the dad, mom has a better social support network, and she more readily taps into it for emotional or logistical support. Dads don’t tend to have as strong of a network, and if they do they don’t tap into it for this purpose. So one issue is, how do we bring dads together so that they can talk to other dads who get what they are going through? Dads can tend to think of themselves as independent, strong, resilient, self-reliant. This can lead them to think that they don’t need support or maybe even to refuse it. Often times it’s the mom who realizes that the dad needs support and she encourages him to seek out help.Dads can also tend to see themselves as problem solvers, but the needs of their child are sometimes not something they can solve. They need to work through that to get to a point of understanding what can be addressed through things like education and therapy, and which things can’t or don’t need to be fixed–it’s just who their child is. Talking with dads who have been through this can help, especially if you are a new parent to a child with a new diagnosis.

J: Yes, that definitely sounds familiar. Are there common issues that come up with dads that you meet?
L: An issue that comes up for a lot of dads is the issue of being included in the life and care of their child. This is mentioned often in regards to education and medical institutions. It not only has to do with being invited to those meetings but also being intentionally included in the conversations and decisions that are being made. For example, in regards to school, dads can feel left out. If they’re not invited they need to insert themselves into the process. As the school year begins they should talk with and work with their partner about getting ready and organized for the school year, reviewing the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), discussing what the teacher needs to know about their child and being part of those conversations when they happen. It’s important, as much as possible, to be part of the whole process. It may not be  immediately evident, but the child really does benefit from dad being involved. In so doing, Dads are setting a nice example for their own and other families and educators. It sets the framework for being involved.

J: You wrote a great article that talks about that very issue. I like how you incorporate the family as a whole while recognizing some the unique needs of Dads. How did you get involved with the Fathers Network and Kindering?
L: I became familiar with Kindering when I was a para-educator in the Northshore school district. Some of my students went there, and I was introduced to the agency by a parent. I eventually served on board subcommittees, and when the former director, Greg Schell, retired I was approached for the position.

J: What is your favorite part of this work?
L: The thing that I really enjoy the most is the unexpected places and unexpected people that the job connects me with. For example, working with organizations that I didn’t know I’d have the opportunity to work with in order to advocate for dads and their children. Another example–one of the exciting things I’m working on right now–is bringing other dad organizations in Washington State together to work cooperatively to serve more dads and serve them better. These organizations include Dads Move, WA Dads, and DADS.

J: Thank you so much, Louis!
L: Thank you for the opportunity!

Visit the website fathersnetwork.org to learn about events, chapters, and other stuff happening in the network. Check out the upcoming WA State Fathers Network Conference: Raising Awareness to Empower Fathers. You can also join the mailing list for a monthly email update, and follow on the Fathers Network on Facebook.

Tags: Back to School   Dad   fathers   Fathers Network   special healthcare needs   Special needs   Washington state   

Partnering to prevent HPV

WithinReach has teamed up with the Group Health Foundation (GHF) for many years, but we recently began an exciting new partnership surrounding human papilloma virus (HPV) initiatives in Washington State. This partnership, which shows visionary donor practices from GHF, funds WithinReach to be a connection point for all 16 of the Foundation’s HPV grants in the State.  Recognizing the abysmal rate of HPV vaccine series completion (44% of females and 25% of adolescent males have completed the 3-dose series in Washington State), many organizations are working hard to bring up rates across the state—a lifesaving initiative that we are thrilled to support.

Using the extensive immunization network of WithinReach, our cutting-edge work surrounding HPV promotion, and our depth of knowledge in vaccine hesitancy issues, WithinReach staff review all funded proposals with an eye towards:

  • Connecting grantees to existing resources that will further their projects
  • Eliminating duplication of efforts
  • Creating partnerships between organizations with aligned goals
  • Encouraging organizations to attend our HPV Task Force or other immunization committees in the state

When WithinReach launched the HPV Task Force in 2015, we learned that many organizations were developing HPV initiatives, but there had been little communication between organizations, largely because there was no venue to do so and because HPV vaccination brings together organizations from seemingly disparate fields: immunization, cancer prevention, sexual health, and adolescent medicine to name a few. Having the HPV Task Force–and now the assurance that these organizations are collaborating–will make Washington a leader in HPV vaccination.

Here’s an example of an early success: Planned Parenthood wanted to pioneer an electronic signature process to easily obtain permission from parents to give their children the HPV vaccine.  WithinReach has long known that Public Health – Seattle & King County successfully uses a service called DocuSign for this very purpose. By putting the two organizations in contact, Planned Parenthood was able to mobilize quickly and follow an existing blueprint to make this service available.  Another success? All GHF grant-funded organizations are routinely meeting as a group outside of the HPV Task Force because they have found informal conversations about sharing resources and ideas helpful and productive.

And if you need a reminder of why the HPV vaccine is important, here are the pertinent details: All cases of cervical cancer, and a large percentage of other genital and anal cancers/warts and oropharyngeal (mouth and throat) cancers are caused by the HPV. The latest HPV vaccine protects girls from 90% of the strains that cause cervical cancer. Cervical cancer takes the lives of over 4,000 American women annually, and inflicts untold sickness and suffering on many more. The vaccine can virtually eliminate morbidity and mortality from cervical cancer.

WithinReach has been working with community partners for over 25 years to not just address health issues facing our community, but to actually create lasting change.  Partnerships like this one with the Group Health Foundation are essential to that goal.

Tags: Group Health Foundation   HPV   HPV vaccine   immunizations   Public Health   Washington state   

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