Key Takeaways from the 2023 Washington State of Reform Conference  

March 8, 2023

Every year, State of Reform helps kick off Washington’s legislative session with its Washington Health Policy Conference – an opportunity for leaders across healthcare, including executives, providers, lawmakers and more, to engage in constructive discussion on the future of healthcare in our state.  

Fourfront Contributor was proud to serve as a sponsor for this year’s conference and leaders from two of our member organizations participated in panel discussions on key priorities for behavioral health delivery and equity across our state. 

Edie Dibble, COO of Comprehensive Healthcare, joined a panel to discuss maximizing the role of community-based organizations or CBOs. Edie was joined by Joe Le Roy, president and CEO of Hope Sparks, Daniel Hannawalt-Morales, health disparities grant coordinator at the Washington State Department of Health, and Patrick Suther, Careport program coordinator at Cascade Pacific Action Alliance.  

Tom Sebastian, CEO of Compass Health, also joined an important conversation about the importance of equity and healthcare. Tom and fellow panelists, including Kelli Houston, chief equity officer at Community Health Plan of Washington, Leah-Hole Marshall, general counsel and chief strategies at the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, and Sybill Hyppolite, legislative director at the Washington Labor Council, addressed how different organizations are working to ensure care is accessible to all Washington residents.  

Maximizing the role of community-based organizations 

During her panel on maximizing the role of CBOs, Edie Dibble spoke to the importance of engaging in systemic change that breaks down barriers to care and how this must start with addressing the current workforce shortage, which has reached crisis levels across community behavioral health and beyond. 

For community behavioral health providers, this will require shifting from the current funding model to a sustainable system that enables us to provide competitive compensation to attract and retain mental health professionals needed to meet demand for services. We and other leaders across the state are looking to the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) model as a long-term solution. Learn more about the CCBHC model here

While Washington navigates the multi-year process to statewide adoption of the CCBHC model, there are also immediate steps that will help address the workforce shortage – primarily, increasing Medicaid and non-Medicaid rates for community behavioral health services. 

A 15 percent rate increase is essential to the short-term survival of our community behavioral health system. For a closer look at the workforce shortage that is plaguing community behavioral health in Washington and the impact that a rate increase would have on the availability of services, click here

On the second from right: Edie Dibble, COO of Comprehensive Healthcare, a member of Fourfront Contributor, engaging in a convening panel where she and other mental health professionals discussed the maximization in the role of CBOs to address social needs.  

Promoting health equity  

To improve access to care, we, as healthcare leaders, must promote health equity. During his panel discussion on the topic, Tom Sebastian called to attention that an important part of achieving health equity is addressing the long-time disparities between the systems that support mental healthcare and physical healthcare. It is vital to support parity across both systems, so that all Washington residents have equal access to a full range of care that supports whole person health. 

CCBHCs play a key role in this, as the model would enable community behavioral health providers to serve any community member, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. 

Panelists also noted that when individuals walk through the door to access care, it is critical that they feel welcome. For many providers, this is where DEIB – diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging – strategies can make a real difference. As healthcare leaders, is crucial that providers look at the entire client experience through a DEIB lens, and that direct action is taken to establish communities of care that are welcoming, supportive, and more culturally informed.  

On the far right: Fourfront Contributor member, Tom Sebastian, CEO of Compass Health, engaging in the equity in healthcare convening panel with other mental health professionals.

At Fourfront Contributor, advocacy is at the core of what we do. Following January’s conference, CEOs from our member organizations sat down with State of Reform to further highlight some of the key short- and long-term solutions that we’re supporting to improve the behavioral health system in Washington.  

You can read our Q&A with State of Reform’s Shane Ersland here.