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COVID-19 Collaboration Calls (6/26/20)

On June 26 OCH hosted a virtual behavioral health collaboration call. The call brought together behavioral health partners, Jefferson County’s Health Officer, and the Salish Behavioral Health Administrative Services Organization to discuss opportunities for regional alignment and to explore possible solutions and supports.

Public Health Officer Update:

  • It is now believed that the first COVID-19 cases were introduced to the U.S. in early January and spread more widely during February.

  • Predictions about the future are very volatile and will largely depend on how the public adapts and embraces prevention measures as well as testing and contact tracing capabilities.

  • In WA, the first wave of cases peaked in mid-late March and rural communities were not severely impacted. Western WA is now experiencing a plateau while eastern WA is getting worse. Yakima has exceeded its hospital capacity.

  • Phased re-openings are geared towards economic survival and do not mean it is safer to be out. Expect more closures in the fall. It may be difficult for some schools to remain open. In baseball terms, we are in the bottom of the 2nd inning with a long way to go.

  • There is good evidence to say this is vaccine preventable. A widely available vaccine is likely still 1 year away. Life will get back to normal eventually.

Opportunities for Regional Alignment:

Across the region, organizations are planning for the long-haul and incorporating telehealth into workflows and regular service lines.

Workforce remains a top concern. Staff are stressed and tired. Wearing a mask all day is challenging. Staff are very familiar with self-care strategies and are being pushed to implement as they can. Leadership continue to brainstorm creative ways to support staff:

  • Pizza parties

  • Popsicle wagon

  • T-shirts

  • Promote EAP

  • Allow staff to work from home

  • Provide additional mental health days

  • Share realistic and accurate information

  • A note from the Health Officer: People need to have really flexible plans when it comes to school (e.g. closures, classroom wide quarantines, etc). Need a workplace that supports through uncertainty which will be very different from a traditional sick leave model.

State Budget Cuts and Local Impact:

Most recent projections anticipate a 20% shortfall in the upcoming state fiscal year budget (begins July). All state agencies were requested to participate in budget exercise, to propose possible options for 15% cuts. Many cuts will require legislative action, a hearing will likely be held in August. For more information on proposed cuts:

Haven’t seen proposed cuts specific to Medicaid yet. May cut “optional” Medicaid services, which includes adult dental. Local concerns include:

  • Seeing a surge in ED visits and overall opioid use in communities.

  • Increase in demand for behavioral health supports while decrease in available funds.

  • Increase costs in the community with possible cut of 6 beds at Western State in addition to the slowing increase of community beds.

  • 1/10th of 1 percent funds come from sales tax – expecting reduction in revenue. Each county will approach deficit separately. Shop at your local retailers!

Next Steps:

Group consensus to continue OCH hosted behavioral health collaboration calls on a monthly basis to continue discussions and working together. There is also interest in bringing additional sectors and partners to the calls for more cross-partner collaboration. If you have topics you would like to discuss on an upcoming call please submit them to

The next call will be held on: July 27 2-3:30pm via Zoom:

In addition to monthly collaboration calls, the group is interested in pursuing a platform to engage in real discussion with Managed Care Organizations and Health Care Authority on Integrated Managed Care challenges.

Stay Healthy, Stay Connected Toolkit: Access printable and digital resources (both English and Spanish) that encourage the community to prioritize their physical and behavioral health during COVID-19.

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