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

More in Opinion

Does Sound Transit realize the consequences of this do-over?

Pass or fail, Initiative 976 is a reminder of what critics most dislike about the regional agency

Impeachment likely, removal not: President Pelosi?

Democratics are likely to impeach Trump, but Republicans are unlikely to convict him at trial.

A look at the races for the state’s 9 top jobs

Nine of the most powerful political jobs in Washington state will be… Continue reading

Amateurism must be maintained to preserve education-based sports

While we addressed a number of important issues with our member state… Continue reading

Turn america’s innovators lose on greenhouse gases

Assuming that reducing greenhouse gases are an ongoing challenge, we need government… Continue reading

King County Library System explores the artificial intelligence frontier

If asked for a show of hands in tech-savvy King County, many… Continue reading

Gov. Jay Inslee. REPORTER FILE PHOTO
Lawmakers to governor: How dare you mess with our budget

They want Jay Inslee to halt his planned $175 million reallocation of state transportation dollars

Give parents an Education Savings Account with $10,000 so children can learn phonics

By Liv Finne, Washington Policy Center, for the Auburn Reporter Teachers are… Continue reading

This political break-up couldn’t come at a worse time

As backers of I-1000 gear up, a legal spat involving others is casting a shadow on their efforts.

High school football is thriving, not dying

By Karissa L. Niehoff, NFHS executive director When the annual High School… Continue reading

Sen. Mona Das. COURESY PHOTO
After a senator’s claim is debunked, a call for an apology

The GOP wants a Democratic senator held to account for accusations which an investigation found to be false

Mitsubishi launching into regional jet space

Traditionally, media coverage of the Paris Air Show focuses on the battle… Continue reading