Resetting state view on helping those with substance abuse

In opioid epidemic, a lawmaker wants recovery to be on the same pedestal as treatment and prevention

  • Thursday, March 7, 2019 2:27pm
  • Opinion

There is no political vaccine for the opioid epidemic, no swift legislative means to free thousands of people of the weight of their substance abuse.

There’s prevention, until it doesn’t work, then treatment, and, if all goes well, recovery.

In recent years, state lawmakers have put more of their focus and taxpayer dollars into the first two elements.

That may change this session.

Three bills which collectively would shine a brighter light on the value of recovery services cleared the state House without a single vote of opposition. As each came up on the House floor, Democratic and Republican members rose to speak of their experiences in recovery and those of their nieces, nephews, and siblings.

Democratic Rep. Lauren Davis of Shoreline, a new legislator whose life’s work is with those striving to lead lives free of substance abuse, wrote all three. And she wasn’t at all surprised at what she heard.

Recovery happens not in treatment but in the community, said Davis, who is founder and executive director of the Washington Recovery Alliance. The state needs to treat it as a priority on a par with treatment and prevention, she said.

Unanimous passage of the bills, she said, “demonstrates Washington believes in recovery and we’re committing to it.”

They approach it from three directions.

House Bill 1768 would put a definition of recovery into state law for the first time.

It would be defined as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential. Recovery often involves achieving remission.”

This definition may not seem like much but it can, over time, become a big deal.

Lawmakers will be more comfortable putting funding toward programs if there is a definition for recovery. It’s how it works. They define a small class size before providing money to shrink them. They define a crime before setting the punishment for those convicted of committing it. In the same vein, in time, the ability of organizations to receive state dollars for recovery services could hinge on whether they will help bring about recovery as defined.

This bill and House Bill 1529 aim to make it less difficult for those in recovery to get a job in the field as a peer counselor or substance abuse disorder professional.

“We’ve got a workforce willing to work and we’re not letting them,” Davis said in an interview.

House Bill 1528 seeks to increase the quantity and improve the quality of housing for those in recovery.

It provides a degree of regulation by establishing a process for recovery residences to be certified by a nationally recognized group or an affiliate based in Washington. One such organization is the Washington Alliance for Quality Recovery Residences.

The bill also creates a registry of certified residences. And starting Jan. 1, 2023, licensed and certified treatment providers could refer clients in need of housing to sites on the registry.

Taken together, the bills would readjust the state’s approach.

“The low-hanging fruit and high potential of return on investment in addressing the opioid epidemic is helping people who are in early recovery remain in recovery long-term,” Davis said Monday on the House floor before the vote on House Bill 1528.

”It doesn’t take much to break a person in early recovery,” she said. “They can leave treatment and want recovery so badly, they could want it with everything they have, with all that they are, with all the breath and life in them, but if we discharge them from treatment homeless or if we discharge them to an unethical recovery home, it could break them.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Pandemic illustrates the need for government action

Despite spending most of my life in government and politics and working… Continue reading

KCLS is stepping up its commitment to patrons

KCLS has expanding its online resources so patrons can continue to learn, build skills, stay entertained and remain mentally and physically active amid the pandemic.

How using a face mask to cover my Asian face could put me in danger

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Asians and Asian Americans have been targeted.

Opinion: Public deserves honest information on sex education

The Washington comprehensive sex education bill passed in the Senate on March 7.

Grocery store staff are working hard to keep the shelves stocked during the COVID-19 pandemic. File photo
Thank you grocery store clerks

Recognizing the sacrifices of our unsung essential workforce.

Helping community organizations as we respond to the coronavirus

Now, more than ever, nonprofits need gifts of time and money

TP shortage is tip of iceberg

Whether it be supplies of daily necessities, medicines or protective clothing, we need to have to patience, understanding and a desire to work together.

To our elected officials: Be bold, be consistent, be honest, be helpful

By Patrick Grubb, Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Governor Jay Inslee has been… Continue reading

Coronavirus testing telecommuting effectiveness

Employers offering a work from home option has grown by 40 percent in the past 5 years

Spring cleaning made easy – the fresh and healthy way

By Hannah Scholes, Waste Management, for the Auburn Reporter You’ve made up… Continue reading

Legislative session ends with plenty of hits and misses

OLYMPIA — The 2020 regular legislative session is coming to a close.… Continue reading

As the deadline nears, state lawmakers face a few challenges

As state lawmakers in Olympia enter the final turn of the 2020… Continue reading