Rehabilitation Should Always Be a Goal, But So is Saving Lives and Keeping Communities Safe

OLYMPIA – Rep. Alicia Rule (D-Blaine) has released the following statement on her sponsorship of HB 1613, an alternate proposal to address the Blake decision:

“I have been a social worker for over 20 years and have seen the pain in people’s eyes as they struggled with addiction and chemical dependency. The suffering is clear to anyone who takes a moment to look.

“I have visited some of our neighbors living in tent encampments. I had the opportunity to speak with and spend time around the people at the forefront of this crisis. Many have family not far away, but in their pain found themselves living in a tent or under a tarp, using drugs.

“We also cannot ignore the impact to our communities and family members. Substance abuse, addiction, and the underlying issues that lead to chemical dependency have an immense cost to families and local neighborhoods. In Washington state, families are seeing their loved ones on the street and have no way to get them help. I have to ask: ‘How can we continue to tolerate this kind of abject suffering?’

“I made the decision to sponsor HB 1613, the companion to Sen. Jesse Salomon’s SB 5467, because of my experiences with our neighbors and loved ones in need. My career as a social worker and mental health professional, as well as my tenure as a state representative, stems from my compassion for others and a drive to help those in need. And our neighbors struggling with addiction need our help, today.

“The Blake decision has forced us to evaluate how we use law enforcement and our judicial system as a tool. Sadly, our policies have indeed caused harm to our marginalized communities. Believe me, I understand and am sensitive to this aspect. My intentions with this bill are not to ignore this issue. But we also cannot ignore the harm that decriminalized drug use causes our communities. We cannot stand back and do nothing.

“Everyone knows someone affected by substance abuse. And our compassion cannot ignore accountability. While we cannot punish our way out of addiction, we owe it to the family members and loved ones who are struggling to save lives. I believe that means prioritizing treatment over punishment, while still holding patients accountable if they choose to abandon their treatment plan. While we are prioritizing rehabilitation, we also have an obligation to save lives and keep our communities safe.

“Not only do drugs like fentanyl result in long-term addiction, but they can also be deadly even upon a first or even accidental use. This means we must move quickly and decisively. Our families, neighborhoods, communities, and loved ones are all looking for leadership to solve these very real and heartbreaking challenges.

“I know that not everyone agrees with this plan and that there will be vigorous debate over the best way to save lives. In the end, we all want the same thing. We owe it to those suffering on our streets and their families to do more than we are today.”