Welcome Back, Members!
As we are taking much needed time away to enjoy our summer, know that our monthly General Membership Meetings are still a place for important information exchange to serve our community members experiencing homelessness.
In this meeting, we discussed:
- An important Primary Election that’s rapidly approaching – vote YES on the VSHSL on August 1st
- Need to register someone to vote? Need help submitting your ballot? Hear some tips from the Coalition
- How to maintain Medicaid coverage as the Public Health Emergency unwinding unenrolls thousands of Washingtonians
- A brief survey of existing crisis response services for those experiencing behavioral health crises in King County
- More services are coming! Kate Baber spoke to us about the planning process for Crisis Care Centers in King County
To review our meeting in full, check out our recording on YouTube.
Updates from the Coalition: VSHSL, Voting Resources, and more!
This Primary Election, we can’t afford to have low voter turnout – the Veteran’s Seniors, and Human Services Levy (VSHSL) must pass to provide essential services to vulnerable communities in King County, so we need every vote we can get! The VSHSL is a primary source of funding for many essential basic needs and human services in King County.
- Food Banks
- Senior Centers
- Housing and supportive services for veterans, survivors of domestic violence, and other resilient communities
- …And so much more!
For more information about the VSHSL, visit their campaign website.
Even if you or your clients do not directly benefit from VSHSL, many others do: 185,000 community members have been served since 2017 with the funding authorized from the past levy.
We need your help to ensure that this levy once again passes!
How Can I Help Get out the Vote?
Many of our clients and community members in King County may believe that they are not eligible to vote due to misinformation or past laws that have restricted voter eligibility.
In fact, you are eligible to register to vote in Washington if:
- You are a US citizen
- You have lived in WA for more than 30 days
- You are 18 years old by election day
- Not disqualified due to a court order (this is rare in practice)
- Not under total confinement for a WA felony conviction
This means that you CAN vote in WA if you have a felony conviction (even if you are currently under DOC Community Supervision!), if you don’t have a permanent residential address, or if you do not have a WA state ID.
Note that the deadline to register for the Primary Election online or via mail is Monday, July 24th. BUT a person can register to vote and cast their ballot at an in-person vote center until 8pm on Election Day!
For a list of King County Vote Centers, visit the King County Elections website.
Already have a ballot? Make sure to submit your ballot in a ballot drop box by 8pm on Election day (8/1), or via the mail so it postmarked by USPS by 5pm on Election Day.
Lost your ballot? Need a replacement? Not a problem! You can reprint your ballot online at the King County Elections website, or request King County Elections mail you a new ballot by calling 206-296-8683.
Maintaining Medicaid Coverage during the Public Health Emergency Unwinding
As many of us are aware, from 2020 to 2023, recipients of public benefits like Medicaid were not subject to eligibility review – this allowed stability for many people
of our most vulnerable during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Starting in early 2023, an “unwinding” of the Public Health Emergency due to decreased impact of COVID-19 has re-started eligibility reviews and sadly, there has already been mass unenrollment from subsidized health care plans, resulting in tens of thousands of Washingtonians losing their health care coverage.
Hannah Rosenberger from Solid Ground shared some important tips for Medicaid recipients to maintain their coverage.
She reminded us that the most important thing for a Medicaid/AppleCare recipient to do is to update their contact information so they can submit a benefits renewal by the deadline provided.
If your client has not received a letter from DSHS, know that it is coming! So they can be in contact for a coverage renewal, Medicaid recipients will need to update their contact info – mailing address, phone number, and email – or opt in to receive online notices on washingtonconnections.org or wahealthplanfidner.org (depending on type of Medicaid coverage).
MAGI Medicaid recipients (people who are 19-64; children; pregnant people who are not disabled) should renew their coverage at www.wahealthplanfinder.org or call the Healthplanfinder Customer Support Center at 1-855-923-4633.
Classic Medicaid recipients (people who are 65+, blind, or disabled) should renew at washingtonconnection.org or DSHS at 1-877-501-2233.
Once a Medicaid recipient receives notice from DSHS, it is vital to submit their renewal paperwork by the deadline provided – even if they only submit partial information – or DSHS will terminate benefits.
Does your client need assistance updating their info or submitting a coverage renewal? Service providers and client advocates can contact DSHS to become authorized representatives, receiving information and asking for supports on behalf of a Medicaid recipient, including time extensions and other accessibility needs. DSHS can also grant Medicaid recipients an Equal Access Plan for any DSHS service, which formalizes any accommodations for which they need to receive information and submit a renewal.
Janet Varon from Northwest Health Law Advocates shared that people have options if unenrolled from Medicaid.
Janet shared that around 75% of those unenrolled from Medicaid have not lost coverage due to ineligibility but were ‘procedural terminations’ – oftentimes because they could not be contacted for a renewal.
If your client has been unenrolled, note that they may qualify for automatic re-enrollment within 30 days if they contact DSHS and submit a renewal. Additionally, those who have been unenrolled may qualify for retroactive coverage that could apply to health care claims over the past three months.
If your client has been unenrolled, they have 90 days to appeal the termination, and may maintain coverage if they appeal within 10 days.
To appeal a termination of Medicaid coverage, you have three options:
- Call DSHS Customer Service at 1-877-501-2233
- Call the Healthcare Authority Customer Service at 1-800-562-3022
- Call the Office of Hearing Administration directly at 1-800-583-8271
If DSHS find that someone is ineligible for Medicaid coverage, Medicare is available for those who are 65+ or disabled. To learn more, visit medicare.gov.
While Medicare covers the majority of health care costs, it does not cover 100%. For assistance covering additional health care expenses, some Medicare clients can access the Medicare Savings Program (MSP), a program that can pay for health care premiums, deductibles, and cost-sharing.
To apply for MSP:
- Apply online at https://www.washingtonconnection.org/
- Call the Health Care Authority at 1-800-562-3022, ext. 16129 to have an application mailed to you
- Apply in-person at a CSO – locations available on the DSHS website
Note that one would need to apply separately for Medicare, as it is a distinct system. To get help applying for Medicare, contact Statewide Health insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA), which can provide individualized support around determining eligibility, the application process, and referrals to other resources. Contact SHIBA via the WA Insurance Commissioner website or by calling 800-562-6900.
Additionally, one may be eligible for a Qualified Health Plan, many of which offer subsidized premiums. To apply for a Qualified Health Plan, visit wahealthplanfinder.org/
- Contact Solid Ground’s Ask a Lawyer Program by emailing benefitslegalhelp[at]solid-ground[dot]org (include “ask a lawyer” in the subject line) or calling 206-694-6742.
- You can also contact Janet Varon of Northwest Health Law Advocates at janet[at]nohla[dot]org.
An Incomplete Overview of King County Crisis Response Services and the Crisis Center Levy
Those of us who continue to support our unhoused neighbors know that during the worst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, those who had reduced access to behavioral health resources did not disappear. Indeed, the pandemic only contributed to or exacerbated their behavioral health needs
, leaving King County desperate for increased crisis response. We know that while preventative care is essential to meeting people’s needs, crisis response is a vital service for those in crisis to reduce harm to themselves, and to begin meeting other needs.
While we can all agree that the current system of crisis response services is insufficient, we know that those operating these existing services make great impacts in the lives of those they serve.
Updates on Existing Services
We were joined by Neil Olson, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at Crisis Connections, who reminded us that Crisis Connections offers a number of essential services in King County, such as:
- 988 – The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
- 877-500-9276 – WA Warm Line for those wanting non-crisis support
- 211 – Information for those seeking food, financial, and housing assistance
988 is a staffed hotline that provides crisis intervention, active listening, suicide assessment, and if needed, follow up services, in which case they coordinate with mobile crisis response teams. They also provide specialized hotline support for members of LGBTQ+, veterans, and indigenous communities.
To order flyers from Crisis Connections, visit their website.
For questions about 988 or Crisis Connections, contact Neil at rolson[at]crisisconnections[dot]org.
We were also joined by Hector Herrera, a LEAD Supervisor at ETS REACH, who shared about his interactions with the DESC Mobile Crisis Team and Seattle Police Department’s Crisis Intervention and Response Team, in his teams’ efforts to divert community members from the criminal justice system.
To hear more from Neil and Hector, check out our YouTube video.
An Update on the Crisis Care Center Implementation Plan
We were joined by Kate Baber, formerly a Board Member of the Coalition and organizer of Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Days, who has been selected by King County to lead the Crisis Care Center Implementation Plan.
Authorized by the Crisis Care Center Levy, King County will undergo three behavioral health investments:
- 5 Crisis Care Centers in King County – 4 sites based on subregion and one county-wide center serving youth. Each center will house three specialty programs:
- A Mental Health Urgent Care Center – a 24/7 walk-in facility for those having a behavioral health crisis and receive triage
- A 23-hour Observation Unit – a space where a person in crisis can be observed by qualified staff before being referred to additional care or community re-entry
- A Crisis Stabilization Unit – a space where one can stay for up to 2 weeks for the purpose of stabilizing before discharge
- A replenishment of residential treatment beds – King County has lost 1/3 of its supply since 2018, so this is a big deal!
- Investments into existing behavioral health care workers and attempts to grow the workforce
While these investments won’t initiate until 2026, the CCC Implementation Board wants to ensure community feedback is included in the planning process from the beginning.
Kate asked these questions of our attendees:
- Can you think of a time when a person you were working with needed behavioral health crisis services? What did you need? What did you get? Was it useful?
- How can we design Crisis Care Centers so that people experiencing homelessness want to come to them?
- Thinking ahead to the future, what would Crisis Care Centers need to show you to demonstrate success?
Do you have feedback for the CCC Implementation Board? Email Kate at kbaber[at]kingcounty[dot]gov.