Washington Lawmakers Tackle Opioid Epidemic, But Much Work Remains

File photo. Distributors of opioids and other prescription drugs in Washington kept their better-than-Boeing tax break this year, despite a lawsuit against the industry's three largest players. CREDIT: Kevin Mooney/N3


The opioid crisis is front and center at the Washington Legislature this week. On Monday, lawmakers heard testimony on three bills aimed at preventing and treating opioid addiction and reducing overdose deaths.

Nathan Schlicher is an emergency room physician who is representing the Washington State Hospital Association. He was one of dozens of people who testified that more needs to be done.

“I have told mothers that their children are not coming home, and watched them fall to their knees and cry out at an angry god, and I have watched a mother who is drug addicted herself carry her five-year-old into my ER who had found her drug stash dying,” Schlicher said. “And I will tell you there is nothing more helpless than a provider than see a five-year-old die of a drug overdose, it is not something you easily forget.”

In 2016, close to 700 people in Washington state died of opioid overdoses.

Lawmakers are considering bills that would expand treatment, and that would impose new restrictions on health care providers that prescribe opioids.

Governor Jay Inslee wants lawmakers to declare the opioid epidemic a public health crisis.

Copyright 2018 Northwest News Network

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In downtown Tacoma, Rachel Ahrens said she sees drug use and abuse frequently.
“I’ve personally seen somebody that was just slumped up against the door and looked to be like an overdose,” said Ahrens, who is the building administrator for First United Methodist Church. “I didn’t have Narcan at that time, so I wasn’t able to administer that. So I had to call 911, for them to help the individual.”

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