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News / Health / Clark County Health

Sen. Murray tours Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s mobile medication-assisted treatment van

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter
Published: January 3, 2024, 7:02pm
6 Photos
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, left, listens to Cowlitz Indian Tribe Manager Michael Watkins talk about the tribe's new mobile treatment van at the Cowlitz Indian Tribe's Vancouver clinic.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, left, listens to Cowlitz Indian Tribe Manager Michael Watkins talk about the tribe's new mobile treatment van at the Cowlitz Indian Tribe's Vancouver clinic. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

“Wow,” U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said as she walked through the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s mobile medication-assisted treatment van Wednesday.

The van — which offers substance use and mental health treatment to address the impacts of the opioid epidemic — is an effort Murray is hoping to expand through government funding.

“I love the van. I think it’s an amazing vehicle with all the facilities that seems to really allow them to be creative in the future as they see where the needs are,” said Murray, D-Wash. “To go where people are is a really critical part of health care.”

Murray also stopped by the Cowlitz Tribe’s Vancouver health and human services clinic to talk with Patty Kinswa-Gaiser, the tribe’s chairwoman, and other tribal leaders.

“Their story about what they’re doing, in terms of working with patients in a whole person way, is really intriguing, and so I’ve been helping them with some federal funds,” Murray said.

Murray, who is the chairwoman of the Senate appropriations committee, has worked to address the growing opioid epidemic by making it a priority in government funding bills.

In December 2022, Murray secured $765,000 in federal funding for the Cowlitz Tribe to renovate its mental health clinic in Longview.

This year, Murray is seeking $700,000 for the Cowlitz Tribe to expand its mobile substance-use treatment services.

Murray said the state has a tremendous need for substance-use disorder treatment, in a statement. She said the Cowlitz Tribe’s mobile unit is making a difference for those who may not have the resources or ability to travel to resources.

“The opioid epidemic is an urgent crisis for every community in Washington state, especially for our tribes,” Murray said in a statement issued after the visit. “I’m absolutely committed to continuing to work at the federal level to provide the resources and support that communities need to address this crisis and break down barriers in access to mental health care and addiction treatment.”

The mobile van is operated by the tribe’s health and human services staff. The van will incorporate primary care, behavioral health, medication-assisted treatment, substance-use treatment and pharmacy services.

“Sen. Patty Murray continues to demonstrate a profound understanding for addressing the mental health and substance-use disorder crisis impacting too many of our people,” Kinswa-Gaiser said in a statement. “Sen. Murray’s leadership is enabling culturally appropriate healing, saving lives, and keeping families together across Indian Country and Washington state.”

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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