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Schlicher speaks as emergency room physician on DUI house bills

OLYMPIA – Sixth District State Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D-Gig Harbor) said he spoke “not a as a senator but as an emergency room physician who treats men and women on both sides of this issue,” following his testimony on Senate Bill 5902 and 5912 before the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

The bills deal with DUI offenses and suggest new measures to reduce the number of offenses.

“One of the challenges before us is that often we are treating victims at the same time as we are treating offenders when a DUI progresses from not just driving under the influence but to an accident under the influence,” said Schlicher. “This is an issue that affects us in all walks of life, rich and poor, black and white, urban, suburban and rural and in tragic ways.  What I hope my colleagues and I will remember as we make hard choices in the coming weeks and attempt to put a final bill together is that alcoholism is a disease as well as a legal issue and when you focus on a disease, you need to focus on treatment.”

Schlicher said the committee heard testimony from people who deal with this disease and its effects on a daily basis.

“Their message was clear: we must focus not only on longer incarceration for people who are guilty of DUI offenses but also on providing treatment to help them get better so that they do not reoffend and drive up the financial and human cost of their ailment,” he said. “Longer incarceration may feed the public appetite for retribution, but it does nothing to move us forward in treating the disease.”

Schlicher said he’s seen the lengths that people will go to, to feed their disease, everything from drinking large amounts of mouthwash to drinking hand sanitizer.

“People find inventive way to satisfy their addiction and a longer stay behind bars will do little to cure someone of the ravages of this disease,” the senator said. “Many of these patients also suffer from other ailments including depression, schizophrenia or a mental illness that causes them to self-medicate and often alcohol is their medicine of choice as they cope with their struggles.”

He said the Legislator has an opportunity to craft bills that help these men and women recover their lives and make better choices; choices that will serve as a safety mechanism for you and every other man, woman and child that drives or rides on our state’s roadways.

“When we talk about fiscal impact, we have to ensure that our money is being spent wisely in areas that will help drive down the cost of the problem, not simply lock it away and wait for it to emerge, untreated and ready to inflict further heartache,” said Schlicher. “When we examine the costs of these bills we need to look at what these bills might save, and I don’t mean just saving us money but saving us from cases of domestic violence, saving us costs in the emergency department and the hospitals and, at the end of the day, saving lives.”

 

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