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October 29, 2004

Message from the Governor

I’ve long worked to make health care and prescription drugs affordable for the people of Washington, especially our senior citizens. Some of the programs that were developed under my administration include a toll free one-stop “clearinghouse” to help seniors apply for free or discounted prescription drugs available from drug manufacturers; a discount card program to provide lower prescriptions drugs to those not eligible for Medicare discount cards; and a program to educate senior citizens in the safe and appropriate use of prescription and nonprescription medications.

Gov. Locke and one of our state's seniors

Washington was also the first state in the country to develop a preferred drug list that is based on finding the most effective drug to treat an illness—and then negotiating the price of them. This approach has saved the state over $50 million in the past two years. This preferred drug list is used throughout state government health programs including Medicaid, Injured Workers Compensation, the Uniform Medical Plan and Department of Corrections. We’ve put our own house in order with respect to prudent and informed buying.

But we must do more. Financial pressures leave our seniors with tough decisions every month.

Too many seniors are asking: should I pay for my prescribed medicine, or should I pay the heating bill? Should I pay for the drugs I need to stay healthy or should I pay my rent? Some seniors are even using less of their prescribed medications than their doctor orders just to make them last longer. Reducing the dosage like this can render some medications completely ineffective—and can place seniors in serious danger.

These are agonizing choices. Nobody should ever have to make them.

A drug benefit plan introduced by the Bush Administration will be added to Medicare in 2006. But no one knows how good the benefits will be or whether our seniors will save any money. More importantly, our seniors can’t wait that long.

Quote of the Week
“Our Web site will help people save money on their medications by providing prices for common brand name drugs at three Canadian pharmacies and informing citizens how they can order those drugs.”
—Governor Locke, October 26, 2004

That’s why I was pleased to announce on October 26 several new prescription drug resources for Washington residents:

  • We’ve developed a new Web site that will allow citizens to buy lower-priced prescription drugs from Canada;
  • On December 1, we will launch an online prescription drug price comparison service of Washington pharmacies; and
  • We are partnering with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program to provide public workshops to educate our citizens about the resources available on the current Rx Washington Web site at or to ensure they are getting the best possible deals on prescription drugs.

These efforts will help. But we have an ongoing prescription drug and healthcare crisis in our country. The President and Congress must give this the national attention it deserves. This is not about politics; it’s about taking care of our citizens.

And it’s for our citizens that we are taking matters into our own hands—and fighting back against the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs.

Gary Locke
Gary Locke

Governor’s Priorities
News Highlights

Fulfilling A Promise To Our Students
Governor Locke this week launched his sixth annual statewide tour of college campuses to recognize more than 7,500 recipients of Washington Promise Scholarships, a program he created in 1999 to help high-achieving, low- and middle-income students pay for college. Nearly $8.4 million in state funds will be used to fund the program this year. The governor this year honored scholarship recipients at Washington State University in Pullman and Western Washington University in Bellingham. During the six years of the program, the state has awarded nearly 35,000 Promise Scholarships. “These scholarships are a 'promise' to the young people of our state,” the Governor said. “If you do well in school and need help to go to college, we will help you. A college education is part of the American dream - and every child in our state deserves the chance to make that dream a reality.”

Protecting Puget Sound
Governor Locke toured spill-affected areas of South Maury Island on October 22 and announced the creation of a task force to examine new and effective ways to respond to oil spills during bad weather. “As we’ve seen over the past week, there’s no such thing as a ‘small’ oil spill in Puget Sound,” the Governor said. “Whether it’s 1,000 gallons or 100,000 gallons, the unique currents and weather conditions of Puget Sound make it difficult to recover.” Gov. Locke at Maury beachThe Governor and U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Jeffery Garrett announced a special working group to explore possible improvements to the state’s system of preparedness and response. They will focus on incidents that occur in unusual conditions like last week’s spill. “This incident represented the worst possible scenario for a spill and highlighted the constraints in detecting and responding to spills that occur in the middle of the night, in heavy fog, with an unknown spiller, at an unknown site and with an uncontained source,” the Governor said. “I want this task force to devise ways to overcome these constraints.”

Promoting Economic Development in Port Angeles
Governor Locke visited Port Angeles to deliver the keynote address at the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce luncheon on October 25. Gov. Locke at the North Olympic Peninsula Skills CenterThe Governor also visited the Olympic Community Action Program (OlyCap) offices and toured the space for a proposed dental clinic. OlyCap is a major social and health services provider for the Olympic Peninsula region, and the Governor thanked the employees for their hard work and dedication. The Governor also toured the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center and Clallam Business Incubator site and made an impromptu visit to the Hood Canal Bridge graving dock.

Supporting our Military Bases
Governor Locke sent a report detailing Washington state’s commitment to its military installations to the U.S. Department of Defense and the state’s congressional delegation on October 21. The report is a product of numerous jurisdictions across the state in conjunction with the Governor’s Policy Office. It serves as a reminder to policy makers at the federal, state and local levels the many ways in which the state and the communities work in partnership with the military installations to support, directly and indirectly, the operations of the installations. “Washington’s military bases are a tremendous asset to our state and vital to the defense of our nation,” the Governor said. “We must continue to invest in a close working relationship with the military and in infrastructure and services in the vicinity of our bases to ensure their continued value to the nation and this state.”

Encouraging SIDS Awareness
Governor Locke has proclaimed October 2004 as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month in Washington. The Governor’s proclamation “urges citizens to learn and implement safe sleep environments in order to reduce the risk of SIDS for Washington’s youngest citizens.” State health officials are planning to distribute educational material on SIDS in several publications that reach into health care offices in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties this fall. Thanks to ongoing education efforts, Washington State has experienced a steady decline in the occurrence of SIDS, but there is still cause for concern. SIDS rates in American Indian and African American families have remained disproportionately high.

Upcoming Events

10/29:  Promise Scholarship Ceremony, Bellingham
11/2:    Election Day

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