New state law reduces barrier to addiction recovery

Auburn Reporter

June 28, 2016

A first-in-the-nation new law providing for privileged communication between a person undergoing drug or alcohol addiction treatment and their recovery sponsor goes into effect today in Washington state.

The change sponsored by state Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, recognizes the important role sponsors play in substance abuse treatment by providing support, advice and accountability for recovering addicts.

“Drug and alcohol addiction is a growing problem in our region and today’s society,” said Fain, who serves as the Senate Majority Floor Leader. “One of the most effective treatment methods includes having a support structure in place where people can have open and honest conversations with those who want to help them recover. Providing additional protections for that relationship is key to effective treatment and will help people in need better address their addiction.”

State law already allows privileged communication for attorneys, counselors, spouses, journalists and medical professionals. The new law adds addiction recovery sponsors to that list and they would no longer be required to share confidential information in civil court proceedings. Privileged communication would not apply for criminal cases.

“Protecting what is shared in confidence removes a potential disincentive for those actively seeking substance abuse help and looking to fully address their illness,” said Fain, who previously served as a DUI prosecutor in King County.

The Legislature approved the measure in March during the 2016 legislative session.