Celebrating 38 Years improving lives by improving homes of low-income Washingtonians
OLYMPIA, WA – Governor Jay Inslee joins community action agencies, housing authorities, and local governments across the state and nation in recognizing Oct. 30, 2017 as Weatherization Day in Washington 2017. The observance marks the 41st year nationally, and the 38th year locally, of the federal/state energy-saving service for low-income households around Washington.
“The Weatherization Assistance Program is an important resource for low-income citizens who struggle with high heating bills and energy-inefficient housing,” Inslee said. “The investments we make in their home energy efficiency will save them money for years to come and preserve affordable housing.”
Each year Washington’s Weatherization Assistance Program helps many households make it through the cold weather season – and the years ahead – by adding insulation, sealing cracks, and making other improvements that reduce heat loss and save money on energy bills. In 2016-2017 the program weatherized over 2,200 low-income homes.
“Year after year, weatherization assistance programs help strengthen communities all over the state by keeping quality, healthy, affordable homes in the marketplace for our low-income neighbors,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender.
Asthma and other respiratory diseases can be a chronic problem for many families in the homes that get the program’s assistance. Low-income families are more likely to have asthma, and children with asthma have the highest rates of hospitalization. In 2010, people with asthma in Washington state made 164,000 visits to hospital emergency rooms, and paid $73 million for asthma-related hospitalizations. Public funds paid for about 60 percent of these costs.
Combining weatherization with home health assessments and education can help reduce the burdens of asthma for low-income families by reducing indoor asthma “triggers” like carpets, cockroaches, water damage, and mold. A recent national study of the low-income weatherization program by Oak Ridge National Laboratory showed that weatherization in homes with asthma sufferers reduced asthma emergency room visits significantly. When weatherization is combined with homeowner education, Medicaid costs for asthma treatment can be reduced by over $400 per year per household.
A $2.1 million “Weatherization Plus Health” pilot grant program tested solutions to these problems in 2016 and 2017. In eight communities it helped over 200 households struggling with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) improve their health and save energy.
•Pierce County Community Connections worked with Tacoma-Pierce County Public Health Department’s Clean Air for Kids community health workers to identify, educate, and provide weatherization to households with asthma and respiratory disease.
•Opportunity Council of Bellingham worked with local medical providers and tribes to identify clients with respiratory disease who were high users of medical services. Opportunity Council provided them weatherization services, combined with asthma education and prevention tips.
•Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic teamed up with the clinic’s Asthma Home Visit Program to provide home visits, healthy homes and weatherization measures to persons with poorly controlled asthma.
•King County Housing Authority (KCHA) worked with Public Health/King County’s trained Community Health Workers to help families with children, adults, and seniors diagnosed with asthma. KCHA targeted high-need households.
•Snohomish County Human Services Department tested partnerships with Snohomish County ECEAP, Early Head Start, Case Management, and the Tulalip Tribe.
•Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners (SNAP) did extensive outreach to medical providers and the public health system to identify households with asthma and or other respiratory conditions. SNAP’s client educator received community health worker training and provided client education and support directly to 42 Spokane County families.
•Blue Mountain Action Council (BMAC) used a small grant to test a referral process with a school-based health center in Walla Walla. It provided weatherization, health assessment, and education to eight families.
•Yakima Nation Housing Authority used a small grant to collaborate with the Indian Health Service Asthma Program and their home visit activities to help seven Native American families.
Results of a full program evaluation are planned for release in November 2017.