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AG's office launches 24/7 confidential youth reporting system

by By TJ Martinell/The Center Square
| June 12, 2024 7:13 PM

(The Center Square) — The Washington Attorney General’s Office has launched a 24/7 confidential youth reporting system in which young state residents under 25 years old can reach out to regarding a variety of issues, including mental health and physical safety.

Speaking at a Tuesday press conference, Attorney General Bob Ferguson described HearMeWa as "a first-of-its-kind statewide reporting system exclusively focused on the safety and well-being of young people.”

In 2021, state legislators introduced Senate Bill 5327, which would have created the reporting system. Even though it failed to clear the Legislature, lawmakers funded the program with $2.5 million through the operating budget. The concept was inspired by a Tri-City resident seeking to address increased suicide rates in the area.

HearMeWa is the product of collaboration and input from thousands of state agencies and community originations, while development and implementation was led by the AGO Youth Program Team. The reporting system is an “antiracist, youth-centered and trauma-informed program,” according to the program’s February 2024 report.

According to a 2022 youth survey conducted by the AGO Youth Program Team, some of the feedback they received had youth citing “racism, hate crimes, LGBTQIA2S+ concerns, abuse, neglect, housing, bills, food assistance, learning disability disparities, and non-criminal activities as relevant issues that other resources do not address.”

“They also expressed not involving the police as a factor for building trust,” according to the survey. “Youth highlighted the importance of having control over who has access to the information they are sharing, not sharing their information with third parties and law enforcement.”

Youth can contact HearMeWa by phone app, text, or a hotline. They are then contacted by trained crisis counselors operating out of the Sandy Hook Promise National Crisis Center. The center then reaches out to various local entities such as schools, counselors, social workers, nurses and “other trusted adults,” Ferguson said at the press conference. The reports are handled on the degree of urgency.”

Ferguson added that the reporting will help them “identity gaps in services to help policymakers address them. This is not a substitute for 9-1-1 in an emergency. This is a starting point not an end point. Not a cure for lack of youth services.”

HearMeWA can help youth with a variety of challenges, including the following:

• Bullying
• Mental health struggles, such as depression or anxiety
• Suicidal thoughts
• Domestic violence
• Housing or food insecurity
• Gender identity
• Threats of violence or rumors of a school shooting
• Anything that makes life hard