Monthly Archives: February 2016

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    BLOG: Washington Should Focus More On HPV Vaccinations To Prevent Cancer

BLOG: Washington Should Focus More On HPV Vaccinations To Prevent Cancer

February 23rd, 2016|

A recent New York Times article reports that the HPV vaccine has sharply reduced the virus’s prevalence among teenage girls, but vaccination rates continue to be low. The HPV vaccine provides immunity against a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical and other types of cancer in both men and women. Nationally, about 40% of girls and 20% of boys between the ages of 13 and 17 receive the vaccination. Recently, I met with Group Health and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to discuss what we might be able to do to improve the take up rate.  It is important to note that even with low vaccination rates, cases of HPV have fallen by two-thirds in teenage girls and by over a third in women in their early 20s. If we can increase immunization rates, we could see those rates fall even further.

There are a few ways that the legislature could take action on this issue. We could direct the Department of Health to report the rates at which young people in specific age ranges are completing the HPV series, which is administered in three doses. This would give us an idea more specifically what HPV vaccine utilization looks like in our state, and it’s what I proposed in SB 6562. We could also do more to promote the vaccine, increase its availability by allowing the second and third doses to be given in school settings, and to educate parents, youth, and health care providers. Another option is to follow the example of Virginia, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia, and add the HPV vaccine to the list of required immunizations for enrollment in school, with the same exemptions that apply to other vaccinations.  That is a big step, however, and I do think the first thing we need to do is get a handle on what the precise situation is here in Washington.

27,000 people per year are diagnosed with cancer caused by HPV, yet we have an extremely effective vaccine to prevent the virus. We should be seeing far fewer of these cases, and with further vaccinations, I am hopeful that we will see that number drop in Washington and around the country.

 

Washington College Savings Program passes Senate

February 17th, 2016|

Legislation authorizing the new Washington College Savings Program passed the Senate late Tuesday night.

SB 6601 permits the Committee for Advanced Tuition Payment (the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Committee) to begin a 529 defined-contribution state savings plan.  The legislation, which was earlier recommended by the five-member GET Committee, provides flexibility for the program to be run through the State Investment Board, in combination with another State 529 plan, or with an outside financial services firm.

“This bill creates an important tool families at all income levels can use to save for college expenses,” said Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, prime sponsor of the bill. “We wanted to increase the options our families have to work with and not limit the specific number of units that can be bought or penalize families that cannot afford to save for their child’s college education until their teen years.”

Frockt added that similar savings accounts have proved successful in other states.

If this legislation passes the full legislature and is signed into law by Gov. Inslee, Washington will join 48 other states in providing its own 529 defined contribution savings plan as an option for residents. Approval of this new savings option does not impact the state’s GET program. SB 6601 also provides a number of provisions designed to inform residents of how the two savings options can work together to provide a more robust college savings plan for families.

“We need to make it as easy as possible for residents of Washington to save money for college,” said Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, original co-sponsor of the bill. “This is a smart and simple proposal that will allow families to invest in their children’s future. As a result, our workforce will grow stronger, benefiting the state and the economy.”

Having passed the Senate with a unanimous vote, the bi-partisan bill (original sponsors included Sens. Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, and Braun, R-Centralia, along with Frockt and Mullet) now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Urgent action needed to help 35,000 homeless students

February 2nd, 2016|

OLYMPIA – Responding to new data from the state superintendent’s office showing more than 35,000 Washington students are homeless, Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, issued the following statement:

“The new figures reported by OSPI are nothing short of a statewide tragedy. A 62 percent increase in student homelessness since 2009 indicates the situation is growing worse by the day. We must act this legislative session to provide more services and more housing stability for these students.

“The $950,000 our state receives from the federal government falls well short of addressing the full scope of this growing crisis.

“The Homeless Student Stability and Opportunity Gap Act (SB 6298), which would double the funding to help these children, has 19 co-sponsors from both parties and has been recommended for passage by the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee for the second consecutive year. The bill was passed out of committee unanimously and is now pending before the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

“When one student in every Washington classroom is homeless, it’s the Senate’s moral obligation to take urgent action and pass this legislation now.”