News Releases

Committee hearing led by Senator Murray brought voices of parents and family care experts to opioid discussion, including Casey Family Programs President & CEO William C. Bell of Seattle 

Senator Murray stressed need to address “ripple effect that impacts entire families and communities”

Senator Murray also shared the story of a Washington state mother who overcame addiction, reunited with her daughter, and became a mentor for other families

Washington state mentoring program, Parents for Parents, highlighted as a holistic approach to keep families experiencing addiction safely together

ICYMI: Sen. Murray Highlights Need for More Resources to Help Communities Respond, Prevent Opioid Misuse – LINK

***WATCH VIDEO OF SENATOR MURRAY’S FLOOR SPEECH HERE***

(Washington, D.C.)  – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking Democrat on the Senate health committee, highlighted stories from Washington state to stress the importance of offering support that keeps families safely together during a committee hearing investigating the impact of the opioid crisis on children and families. Joined by Casey Family Programs President and CEO William C. Bell of Seattle, who provided committee members with expert testimony about the impact of opioid misuse on youth in foster care, in her opening remarks Senator Murray highlighted the personal story of a Washington state mother who overcame her disease, reunited with her daughter, and now helps other families struggling with addiction. Senator Murray also emphasized the importance of programs that provide effective and meaningful support for families affected by the opioid crisis, and expressed her hope to build on recent bipartisan action and continue providing needed resources to communities in Washington state and around the country that have been impacted by the opioid epidemic.

Senator Murray has long been focused on bringing an end to the opioid crisis that has deeply impacted communities throughout Washington state and nationwide. As a voice for Washington state, Senator Murray has traveled throughout the state to hear from families, patients, medical professionals and law enforcement about the unique challenges local communities face in their fight against the epidemic, and has continued working to find bipartisan solutions to help combat opioid addiction and support recovery and prevention efforts. Recently, Senator Murray also reiterated her call urging increased cooperation from the Trump Administration to combat the epidemic.

Key excerpts of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“As we have seen again and again, this epidemic doesn’t just impact one person, it has a ripple effect that impacts entire families and entire communities. If we are going to beat this public health crisis, we need to make sure we are providing resources to everyone touched by it. We need to make sure we are healing all the damage it does. And we need to be listening to the full stories—all of them.”

“My constituent Alise’s story shows why this is so important. When Alise became pregnant with her daughter, she was struggling with addiction. She was in and out of jail during her pregnancy. By the time her daughter was born—two months early and with a small amount of meth in her system—Alise was facing a seven year prison sentence. Her daughter was immediately placed in foster care. However, that’s not the end of Alise’s story. She received treatment in prison. She fought against her addiction and fought for her daughter, her family, and their future. And after she won that fight, beat her addiction, and regained custody of her daughter. She decided to help others going through the same thing.”

“We must confront the challenges of everyone this crisis affects and we must do it in partnership with everyone who can help effect change. That means working closely with stakeholders ranging from federal, state and local government, to health care providers, educators, public safety officials, and, most importantly, families.”

Watch video of Senator Murray’s opening remarks HERE or below:

Senator Murray gives opening remarks during a HELP committee hearing on the impact of the opioid crisis on children and families on February 8.

Full text of Senator Murray’s opening remarks below:

Thank you Mr. Chairman. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to focus on the impact the opioid epidemic is having on individuals, children, families, and communities, and what we can do to help them. I’m also grateful to our witnesses today for bravely sharing their stories and lending us their expertise.

As we have seen again and again, this epidemic doesn’t just impact one person, it has a ripple effect that impacts entire families and entire communities. If we are going to beat this public health crisis, we need to make sure we are providing resources to everyone touched by it. We need to make sure we are healing all the damage it does. And we need to be listening to the full stories—all of them.

The stories told by hospital staff, like those I recently visited in Longview Washington, who told me half of the babies they delivered were born to mothers battling opioid addiction. The stories told by the sharp increase nationally in babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, who are born seizing, shivering, and struggling with other symptoms of withdrawal.

We need to be listening to the stories of the ninety thousand children removed from homes deemed unsafe due to a parent’s challenges with drug use. And the stories of the children struggling with the impacts of trauma in schools which lack the resources to meet their unique needs.

But the story isn’t just told by children, it is told by parents. Parents who have watched as the children they would do anything for struggle with a disease they feel helpless to do anything against. Parents who don’t know where to turn for help—if they can even afford it. Who feel disheartened by a child’s relapse. Who feel silenced by stigma. And the story is even told by grandparents and relatives who must step up as guardians and caregivers.

When we fight this disease, we need to fight it on all of these fronts and for all of these people. We must do more than stem the tide of the opioid epidemic, we must also acknowledge and address the damage it does.

My constituent Alise’s story shows why this is so important.

When Alise became pregnant with her daughter, she was struggling with addiction. She was in and out of jail during her pregnancy. By the time her daughter was born—two months early and with a small amount of meth in her system—Alise was facing a seven year prison sentence. Her daughter was immediately placed in foster care.

However that’s not the end of Alise’s story. She received treatment in prison. She fought against her addiction and fought for her daughter, her family, and their future. And after she won that fight, beat her addiction, and regained custody of her daughter. She decided to help others going through the same thing.

Today she works with Parents for Parents, a program that pairs parent mentors with families battling to stay safely together. It takes a holistic and evidence-based approach to the challenge of healing families. Results have shown that the program makes it more likely families stay together, and less likely mothers and fathers lose their parental rights.

There are many approaches like Parents for Parents that serve these broader needs and deserve our full support. Congress must continue its bipartisan work to combat this crisis by addressing both the root causes and the ripple effects of the opioid epidemic.

That means we must address childhood trauma. We must train teachers to understand how it can affect children and how to avoid knee-jerk discipline that does more harm than good.

We must make sure young people understand the grave risks of misusing opioids and that they are equipped to avoid making decisions that could take their lives in just one night.

We must support parents who need information amid the uncertainty of how to help a struggling family member, support amid the fear of stigma in discussing the disease, and reassurance amid the common trials of relapse. We must address the needs of pregnant women, postpartum women, and their infants with substance use treatment that allows them to stay safely together. We must reorient our child welfare system towards prevention services for families.

Programs like Head Start offer a two-generation approach so that children and families get the support they need to heal, grow, and succeed together. Research has shown that children brought to the attention of child protective services who are enrolled in Head Start programs are 94 percent less likely to be in foster care a year later.

We must confront the challenges of everyone this crisis affects and we must do it in partnership with everyone who can help effect change. That means working closely with stakeholders ranging from federal, state and local government, to health care providers,  educators, public safety officials, and, most importantly, families.

Unfortunately, while President Trump has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, his promise to address it rings hollow in light of his actions. At a time of public health emergency President Trump’s Administration has been, sabotaging health care, making it harder for people to get Medicaid, which helps provide substance use disorder treatment, proposing dramatic cuts to drug control offices and programs designed to promote evidence-based treatments, and leaving key leadership positions empty.

The President may not be taking meaningful action, but I’ve been heartened to see Congress continuing to work in a bipartisan way to solve this issue. Like when we passed the 21st Century Cures Act to fund state efforts in prevention, treatment, and recovery. And when we passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act—which supports specific outreach for veterans and pregnant and postpartum women, expands access to medication-assisted treatments, and much more. And I am encouraged that the recent bipartisan funding deal includes additional resources.

Of course, even as we act, we must also continue to listen to stories like Alise’s. Which is why I’m incredibly grateful we’ll hear from all of our witnesses today. And why I am already planning to meet with more parents like Alise, and more children like her daughter, back in Washington state later this month.

Finally, before we begin, I would like to submit a statement for the record from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on this topic. Thank you.