Legislature approves bills focused on homeless youth

Three bills addressing youth homelessness were approved by the Legislature this session, which ended April 21. A 30-day special session began April 24.

The three youth homelessness bills are among dozens of measures passing both the House and Senate. The three are:

• SHB 1641 allows a school nurse, school counselor or homeless student liaison to provide consent for health care for a homeless student when consent is necessary for nonemergency outpatient primary care services; the patient meets the definition of a “homeless child or youth” under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which is aimed at addressing the problems that homeless children and youth have faced in enrolling, attending, and succeeding in school, and the patient is not under the supervision or control of a parent, custodian or legal guardian and is not in the care and custody of the Department of Social and Health Services. The governor’s signature is next.

• SHB 1816 allows the Department of Social and Health Services to disclose confidential child welfare records to the Department of Commerce for youth admitted to crisis residential centers (CRC) or HOPE centers and modifies certain administrative responsibilities related to CRCs and HOPE centers. Crisis Residential Centers are short-term secure or semi-secure facilities providing a temporary residence for runaway youth and adolescents in conflict with their families. Counselors at a CRC work with the family to resolve the immediate conflict and may refer the family for additional services. At the request of the child or parent, a CRC administrator may convene a multidisciplinary team to assist with coordination and delivery of services to the family. HOPE centers provide temporary residence and services for street youth under the age of 18. Youth residing in a HOPE center receive a comprehensive assessment that may include referrals and permanency planning. The bill awaits the governor’s signature.

• SSB 5241 Sets in place procedures to help the on-time grade level progression and graduation of students who are homeless. It was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on April 17.

Meanwhile, major legislative solutions to the biennial budget and how the state intends to fully fund basic education remain for consideration during the special session. A mandate from the State Supreme Court with a deadline this year for solving the education funding crisis, plus a daily $100,000 fine until that mandate is met, continues to hover over legislative deliberations. So far the state owes more than $60 million in penalties for inaction since the high court exercised jurisdiction over the education-funding dilemma.