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Meet the Ricky behind 'Ricky's Law,' and the Lauren who stood by him: Sound Effect, Episode 163.5

Jennifer Wing
Lauren Davis and Ricky Garcia in 2018

This story originally aired on December 8, 2018.  

Lauren Davis and Ricky Garcia met when they were teenagers working together at a preschool in Issaquah. They formed a strong and close bond, as young people often do. That bond was destined to change the course of their lives. It also changed the possibilities for other Washington state residents who are struggling with addiction.

When he was in his early 20s, Ricky developed an alcohol habit. And a marijuana habit. And a habit of "dabbling" in heroin. "I knew I was feeling depressed," he says. "I was feeling really anxious, most of the time I just wanted to escape all that. I just started to self-medicate and take whatever it took to escape reality."

When his habit spiraled out of control, Lauren became one of the people who helped him. She was available in ways that his family, because of language barriers and other difficulties, sometimes couldn't be. She was there during his repeated hospitalizations at Harborview. And she was there at a discharge meeting when a psychiatrist told Ricky "You're 25 years old and you're dying of your addiciton. If you were in another state and I could commit you involuntarily to addiction treatment, I would, but my hands are tied under Washington state law."

This psychiatrist, Lauren says, told her that her loved one had the wrong disease. If he had a mental disorder, he could be saved, but because he had a different brain disease of addiction, he was going to be discharged to die. And, she says, that was a wholly unacceptable answer.

Eventually, on Aug. 27, 2012, Ricky chose to go to addiction treatment voluntarily. "I refused to die," he says. Once her loved one was safely sober, Lauren set out to change the laws that made it so difficult to help him with his addiction. It involved a lot of digging.

"I started schooling myself fon the behavioral health system," she said. "Eventually I was able to specifically identify what was the problem in state statute that didn't allow an adult or a child to be involuntarily committed for addiction. And once I had that identified, I went to work and I started talking to lawmakers." That was the birthplace of what became Ricky's law.

"I think this law is going to be the thing that says no for you when you can't say no for yourself," Ricky said.

Ricky’s law went into effect in April 2018. It allows for the involuntary commitment of a loved one who is suffering from addiction. The hope is for people to reach a sober state so that they can make a decision about whether or not to enter a treatment program.
Enrique Garcia has been sober for six years. And Lauren Davis will be spending a lot more time in Olympia. This past November, Lauren was elected to represent Washington’s 32nd Legislative District in the state House.