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Inside Olympia — Internet for All, Housing as Health Care

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It’s a new season — and a new set! — for Inside Olympia. The new set was designed with both the TV viewer, and the podcast listener, in mind. Visually appealing, with desktop microphones providing exceptional audio quality.

This week’s interviews:

About 90 percent of Washington households have strong, reliable internet. But that leaves 10 percent who don’t. Somewhere over 200,000 households — that’s according to Mark Vasconi, director of the Washington State Broadband Office, whose mission is to remedy that.

The state’s “Internet for All” initiative — — which is housed in the Washington State Department of Commerce, aims to distribute over a billion dollars in federal and state funding over the next several years, to bridge what Vasconi calls “the tyranny of distance,” and bring to all Washingtonians what is increasingly an essential public service.

How will the money be distributed? What will it buy for Washingtonians? How are specific “equity” dollars going to be spent? Find out more in our in-depth interview with Mark Vasconi.

Plus — Starting back in 2017, Washington has applied for federal waivers that enable the state to spend Medicaid dollars on goods and services other than direct health care — for instance, housing and employment services.

Now, thanks to state legislation passed in 2022, the state has stood up a new office in the Washington State Department of Commerce named the Apple Health and Homes Program. The new office gives the state a one-stop coordinated shop to identify and help persons who have experienced homelessness and who have a behavioral health diagnosis or chronic medical condition.

Melodie Pazalt heads up the Apple Health and Homes Program at Commerce. Commerce jointly administers the program with the Washington State Health Care Authority, where Scott Tankersley is administrator for the Foundational Community Supports program. A joint interview with Pazalt and Tankersley, this week on Inside Olympia.