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Washington State Lawmakers Tackle Opioid Epidemic

Kevin Mooney
Northwest News Network

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 represents the Washington State Medical 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.

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

CORRECTION: Nathan Schlicher was incorrectly identified as representing the Washington State Hospital Association. He represents the Washington State Medical Association, although he was speaking on a joint taskforce of the WSHA and the WSMA. 

Deborah is an award–winning radio and television journalist whose career spans more than three decades. As the recipient of a 2018-2019 Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship, Deborah is currently focusing her reporting on adolescents and mental health.