Dear Community,

We need comprehensive changes to substance use policies.

We support the Treatment and Recovery Act.

We support the new legislation that has been drafted to address our state’s substance use public health crisis, called “The Treatment and Recovery Act.” 

Our children, friends, family members, and neighbors suffering from substance use disorders desperately need better access to drug treatment services, not ineffective criminal justice interventions. Through our current punitive systems, we are ruining lives by denying tens of thousands of Washingtonians who suffer from substance use disorders any real chance of recovering and becoming productive, thriving members of society. Our “war on drugs” policies continue to distract us from effective interventions, while overdose deaths in WA continue to spike at more than 1,300 deaths per year. 

 

What the current system is: 

  • Washington faces a dire public health crisis.

    •  Substance use disorders in Washington have reached epidemic proportions. More than 1,300 people in our state died from drug-related poisonings in 2018. 

  • The current system disproportionately impacts people of color. 

    • People use illicit drugs at roughly uniform rates across race, yet people of color are arrested more often for drug possession. 

  • Decades of treating this public health crisis through the criminal justice system have only made matters worse. 

    • Overdose death rates are particularly high among recently incarcerated individuals whose tolerance for the drug is reduced, making them much more vulnerable to an overdose. 

What the Treatment and Recovery Act does:

  • Use public health-based approaches first, instead of arrest and prosecution.

    • Reclassify personal use drug offenses from crimes to a civil infraction and connect people with the right services to address the root causes of their substance use disorder, helping them get back on track. 

    • Give people caught possessing personal use amounts of drugs a civil infraction and connect them to treatment via a mandatory service assessment. 

    • If the person attends the assessment within 72 hours, the civil infraction will be waived. Existing criminal penalties for selling or manufacturing illegal drugs remain in place. 

  • Enhancing law enforcement training and public health education. 

    • Provide every law enforcement officer with current, evidence-based training, and new tools to connect people with substance use disorders to the right services. 

    • Fund a statewide education campaign about substance use and how people can get help for themselves or loved ones through grants to local health departments.

  • Expand Funding for local and Tribal prevention, treatment, and recovery programs

    • Increase state funding drug treatment and recovery programs by nearly 30% ($125 million) from existing marijuana tax revenue, and direct money to local and tribal governments and qualified non-profit organizations who can make decisions on how money for drug treatment and addiction services is spent. 

 

We need a better approach.

We need to stop wasting money and time on a broken system and invest in improving access to treatment and recovery services. We need to address the root causes of substance use disorders with programs and services that actually work. 

We need the Treatment and Recovery Act.

For more information visit  https://action.treatmentfirstwa.org/c3coalition

Thank You, 

Jacque Julien, Executive Director

The Communities of Color Coalition, building intentional communities since, 2000.

2020 Communties of Color Coalition