EYE ON OLYMPIA: Runaway youth bill passes state Senate

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

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OLYMPIA — A bill, sponsored by a 24th District legislator, that would give licensed youth shelters and other programs that take in runaway youth more time before the runaway’s parents have to be contacted has unanimously passed the state Senate, with a vote in the state House expected to be scheduled soon.

“I expect that to pass fairly quickly,” said State Sen. and Hoquiam Democrat Jim Hargrove, who sponsored the bill.

In an interview last week, Hargrove said his SB 5147 would reinstate a rule that says state-licensed youth shelters have 72 hours to contact a youth’s parents, law enforcement or the state Department Social and Health Services after shelter staff have learned the youth taken in has been reported as a runaway.

The 72-hour rule took the place of the previous eight-hour requirement for contacting a runaway’s parents and originally was passed in 2010 but expired in July of last year.

“So this bill basically makes permanent the changes we made three years ago,” Hargrove said.

Hargrove said he had been in contact with youth shelters in the state’s heavily populated communities and has heard that the eight-hour requirement was too tight and did not give shelter staff enough time to work with a youth and his or her parents.

Clallam County operates the Secure Crisis Resource Center, which provides a four-bed, licensed facility that caters to 12- to 17-year- olds and provides 24-hour shelter for up to five days.

Jody Jacobsen, the center’s manager, said the facility handles runaways brought to the center by law enforcement officers or by court order and is not open to walk-ins off the street.

In 2012, Jacobsen said the center took in 66 runaways, up from between 35 and 40 the year before.

The Dream Center, run by Serenity House of Clallam County, provides overnight shelter for at-risk or homeless youth 17 years of age and younger for up to 14 nights through the Vine Street Cottage, according to the Serenity House website, though youths staying at the Vine Street House must leave during the day.

Julia Danskin, public health manager with Jefferson County, said Jefferson County government does not run a youth shelter.

Hargrove represents Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County in the state legislature, along with 24th Legislative District State Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege, both Sequim Democrats.

In a public hearing last month before the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee, on which Hargrove sits, the SB 5147 received support from multiple youth shelter organizations and from a statewide foster care advocacy group, according to the bill analysis prepared by legislative committee staff.

In testimony in support of this bill, representatives from these organizations said the 72-hour time frame allowed shelters to work with both parents and children and provided a safe space for children while their parents were contacted.

Additionally, some shelters simply have not been able to contact a youth’s parents within the eight-hour time frame, according to the testimony, meaning law enforcement or the DSHS would have to be contacted before the parents, according to the testimony.

In other 24th Legislative District news, a state house bill sponsored by Van De Wege and cosponsored by Tharinger that would ban certain types of flame retardants had a public hearing on the House Committee on Environment, on which Tharinger sits.

According to the bill analysis, HB 1294 would ban the manufacture, sale or distribution of residential upholstered furniture or children’s products containing all but minuscule amounts of a type of flame retardants collectively known as Tris, which has been shown to be harmful to human health.

Van De Wege said the bill gathered support even from representatives from the chemical industry and said he expects the bill to pass out of the Environment committee.

“Moving this one forward is my main goal right now,” Van De Wege said.

In a Saturday interview, Tharinger said one point of contention with retardant manufacturers has been the provision that allows the state Department of Ecology to add by their rule chemicals to a state list of chemicals that manufacturers must provide reports on due to their effects on human health.

Tharinger said this route is preferable to the current method of the state legislature having to vote to ban a given chemical and hand over regulatory authority to Ecology.

“It’s cumbersome to come to the legislature every time one of these chemicals comes into question,” Tharinger said.

Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 10. 2013 5:57PM
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