Kennewick local, lawmakers team up to create youth tip line in Washington

The app, Youth Empowered to Speak-Up or 'Yes' would be available statewide
Kennewick Local, Lawmaker Work To Start Youth Wellbeing Tip Line In Washington

KENNEWICK, Wash. – It’s been four years in the making, since Kennewick native, Conner Mertens pitched an idea to Senator Sharon Brown. He wanted to create a statewide tip line for kids, teens and young adults.

“Unfortunately, we saw a string of youth suicides in our town over one summer, that just hit especially close to home for me,” Conner Mertens, who now lives in New York, said.

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“I get a text from him one night saying, ‘hey Senator Brown, you know, if you got some time, I’d love to talk to you about this concept,” Senator Brown added.

Mertens had been researching other states’ solutions for some time. Subsequently, Senator Brown turned to the Benton Franklin Community Health Alliance in Kennewick, who looked at the metrics and successes of youth wellbeing and health tip line apps in other parts of the US.

“That’s really important, the ability to communicate without triggering some huge response right off the bat; they want that anonymity,” Kirk Williamson with BFCHA said.

“We’ve seen the metrics that they have actually saved young lives,” Senator Brown said.

Youth Empowered to Speak-Up as an app

‘YES’ tip line would be a mobile phone app for people 25 years old and under in Washington. It would allow the user to confidentially report a multitude of concerns from suicide threats on social media to domestic violence, or bullying.

The state Attorney General’s office would be tasked with getting and responding to the alerts from the public. In turn, it would allow young people to connect with local officials or mental health services.

Senator Brown said, depending on the severity, the correct resources would be alerted.

“Almost 100 % of the time, it wasn’t a surprise when somebody went to do something catastrophic. Usually, there was some individual in the pipeline that knew something along the way,” she explained.  

“If there’s a safe place for someone to say, ‘hey I think so and so might be gonna, whatever’ that’s the way to hand those things off and get the resources in the right place,” Williamson added.

YES tip line goes through state legislature as a senate bill

Mertens said he’s thankful for the dozens of people who worked to turn his idea into Senate Bill 5327 into lawmakers hands. I just hope that the young people understand the importance of asking for help and not just asking for help, but reaching out and checking on your friends. It sounds corny but really checking in on your friends will go so far,” he said.

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“Let’s get this tip line in place, and let’s get resources to those poor kids feeling totally isolated especially as a result of this pandemic,” Senator Brown added.

The bill is scheduled for executive session this coming Friday, at 10:30 AM.