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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 11, 2013 at 8:02 AM

Are Washington state DUI laws severe enough?

The key is early treatment

The article about DUI laws in the state of Washington was informative, but it lacked specific proposals for what works in treating alcoholism and addiction [“Do state DUI laws go far enough?” front page, March 31].

I am a recovering alcoholic with over 18 years of sobriety, a lawyer, a husband, a father and a former public member of the Medical Quality Assurance Commission. I am also a volunteer mentor and have been a lecturer at both the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and Hazelden in Newberg, Ore.

When an individual receives a DUI citation, there is a high probability that alcohol is a problem in his or her life. This is when intervention must occur, not after a conviction in a court of law.

Upon the issuance of a citation, there needs to be an alcohol assessment within 30 days by a licensed facility. If there is an indication of even early-stage addiction, an interlock ignition switch must be installed on the suspect’s vehicle.

Additionally, he or she must be mandated into a two-year program of random urinalysis, have documented daily attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for 90 days, and have written proof of weekly interface with either a sponsor or a counselor, all at personal expense.

Accountability. The key component is early intervention and treatment. We do not wait until a person has terminal cancer before initiating treatment; it begins as soon as the disease is discovered. The same approach must be used in treating alcoholism.

The time has come for our legislators to acknowledge the fact that alcoholism is a primary, progressive and fatal disease. It is also a disease that can be effectively treated at an early stage. I am living, working, happy proof that alcoholics can and do get well. And I never had a DUI.

Gregory G. Rockwell, Seattle

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