On the road: Long-term care insurance, new psychiatric hospital, solar panels in King County

Story Body

On a gorgeous, sunny day in King County, Gov. Jay Inslee cut ribbons, high-fived some kids, and joined a press event celebrating another of Washington's nation-leading programs.

The WA Cares Fund is Washington's new long-term care insurance program - the first of its kind nationwide. WA Cares helps people get care if they have an illness, accident, or other need for care later in life. Legislators improved the program this session by making WA Cares benefits portable. Now, Washingtonians who paid into WA Cares can still benefit should they move away.

Marcos Worku was a nurse when he experienced a stroke at age 47. He suffered brain damage and mobility loss in his hands and legs. He recuperated in a nursing home for five years, slowly regaining his strength. He’s finally able to live independently again, but he needs a little help. The WA Cares benefit would help a lot in situations like Worku’s.

A man walks up an accessible ramp with a walker.
Markos Worku walks up to his front door using his walker and accessible ramp — the WA Cares Fund can help beneficiaries purchase assistive equipment and even home accommodations like this.

Earlier that morning, Gov. Jay Inslee joined a ribbon-cutting to open the new University of Washington Center for Behavioral Health and Learning. The facility is a psychiatric hospital with 150 beds for people with behavioral health care needs. It's also a teaching hospital where the next generation of psychiatric specialists will master their trade. Inslee proposed the hospital in 2018 as a part of a long-term strategy for transforming Washington’s behavioral health system. The state supported its construction with $244 million from the capital budget. The hospital will add bed space and train new professionals to relieve shortages in both categories.

Onlookers smile as a man cuts a large purple ribbon with large scissors.
Rep. Frank Chopp, Gov. Jay Inslee, UW director of state relations Rashi Gupta, and Sen. Manka Dhingra help cut the ribbon to open the UW Center for Behavioral Health and Learning on May 15, 2024.

Later in the afternoon, the governor visited Harborview Medical Center downtown. The hospital is the only level-one trauma center in a four-state area; it tends to patients with severe and complex traumas. But their survival rate is a miraculous 96%, a testament to the extraordinary expertise of their medical staff.

Lately, the hospital has shown itself to be on the cutting edge in a new way. They've installed a bank of solar panels on the rooftop of the hospital to lower emissions. They've also replaced the boilers at the adjacent childcare center in favor of heat pumps to keep the children they care for comfortable.

Gov. Jay Inslee smiles in front of a rooftop solar panel installation.
Gov. Jay Inslee was excited to see a brand-new bank of solar panels on the roof of Harborview Medical Center to power some of their systems while reducing emissions.

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