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May 30, 2012

Each May, the Attorney General’s Office welcomes hundreds of very inspiring middle and high school students to one of the most important youth prevention events in our state.  This year, I’m happy to report that the 2012 Spring Youth Forum, bigger and better than ever, was a huge success!  

Youth prevention teams from across Washington make a big splash at the Great Wolf!

Held for the fourth year at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, the Spring Forum brings together students from across Washington to showcase peer prevention programs they have developed in their local communities and schools, and compete for an array of prizes, including the opportunity to attend a national prevention leadership conference in Washington, D.C.

The Spring Forum follows the Washington State Prevention Summit held each fall in Yakima, where students work with adults to learn how to develop prevention programs, and collaborate with their peers on ideas to bring home to their own communities.  In May, the students travel west to present their accomplishments.

A grant from the Attorney General’s Office partially funds the Fall Summit and completely funds the Spring Forum and provides scholarships for students to attend. Both events are presented by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery. Our goal is to support the prevention of prescription drug, over-the-counter and synthetic drug abuse, as well as other destructive behaviors that threaten the health and safety of our state’s young people.   The grant funds are generated from court settlements with drug companies for consumer protection violations impacting the people of Washington.

Asian Men’s Film Project takes the Grand Prize

At this year’s Forum, a group of young Southeast Asian American students shared their experiences as members of a Seattle film project and walked away with the Grand Prize -- a $3,000 partial scholarship for the trip to D.C. 

The SE Asian Men’s Film Project, offered by Asian Counseling and Referral Service, provides high school-aged boys, primarily from refugee families (Cambodian, Cham, Hmong, Lao, Khmu, Mien and Vietnamese), an opportunity to connect with their culture, school and community through film-making.

The project diverts youth from drug and gang activity and gives them the opportunity to learn about documentary making and film production.  At the Forum, the youth shared the trailer for one of their upcoming films chronicling one boy’s decision to quit using marijuana—including the challenges, consequences and benefits he encounters along his journey.

The winning group was one of 42 youth teams who won scholarships to attend this year’s Forum and present their efforts to fight drugs, alcohol, tobacco, bullying, suicide, gang violence and other destructive behaviors in their schools and communities.

The students who participate bring a passion for prevention and a deep understanding of how to communicate with each other to make a positive difference in each other’s lives.  I’m proud my office is able to help plan and implement this forum and I’m pleased we’ve had grant funding available to keep it alive year after year.

The youngest victims of our state’s drug abuse epidemic – drug-addicted infants

Speaking of prevention, as you know, one of my top priorities as Attorney General has been helping law enforcement and communities address the drug abuse epidemics that have plagued our state over the past decade.   When I first took office, it was methamphetamine.  In recent years, we’ve been dealing with the growing trend toward prescription drug abuse.

The abuse of prescription drugs is a national epidemic, and Washington has been hit particularly hard.  Prescription drug abuse, like the meth epidemic, is taking a terrible toll on families, our communities, our health care and criminal justice systems, and ultimately our economy.  And again, the most tragic consequence of this problem is the children struggling to survive in a drug abuse environment.

A recent report from the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that drug exposure and neonatal abstinence syndrome rates increased significantly from 2000 to 2008.  Rates in our state were consistently higher than national figures – almost four per 1,000 births.  Of those, the numbers show that prenatal exposure to opioids has nearly doubled – from 26% in 2000 to 41% in 2008. In other words, despite the risks to their babies, many women with drug abuse problems continue to use during their pregnancies. 

Pediatric Interim Care Center (PICC) – A home away from home for drug-exposed babies

Fortunately, our state is home to the best care facility in the nation serving drug-exposed infants. The Pediatric Interim Care Center (PICC), located in Kent, has long been a pioneer on this front, having served more than 2,700 babies over the past 21 years.  

As a friend and frequent visitor of PICC, I’ve learned a great deal about the extensive care drug-exposed babies require and the long term help their families need to thrive.  Just last week I had the honor of speaking at one of their events to help raise community awareness about the important work they do.  I was also honored to receive a special little gift from Emily, the young daughter of one of our AGO employees who adopted her when she was just an infant who had received care from PICC.

PICC is a model program and a national leader in the care of drug-exposed infants.  It’s a one-of-a-kind facility that provides immediate, short-term medical care between hospital and home for medically fragile infants suffering from prenatal drug exposure.   Their work also expands well into the community, supporting recovering mothers, facilitating visitation for families, providing caregiver training, following the babies into their new homes, and offering a range of community outreach and education services.

Our state is very fortunate to have PICC, and its staff members play a critical role in statewide efforts to protect drug endangered children, build healthier families and end the cycle of drug abuse that is plaguing our state.  If you’re not familiar with PICC, take a look at this video and see for yourself how well they serve our state and the many babies in their loving care.

AGs to the entertainment industry and media – stop glamorizing prostitution!

In our ongoing efforts to fight human trafficking, my fellow attorneys general and I continue to turn up the heat on Village Voice Media, owner of, for its disgraceful role in enabling domestic minor sex trafficking across the United States.   Yet, even in the face of a rising tide of public opposition, which is also driving a mass exodus of their own advertisers, Village Voice continues to choose profits over taking responsibility for their role in the human trafficking problem in this country.

By now, it’s become fairly common knowledge that Village Voice Media hauls in tens of millions in advertising dollars each year from their online red light district,, where human beings -- including a disturbing number of minors -- can be bought and sold for sex.

This commercial mainstreaming of prostitution is one of the biggest obstacles our country faces in the fight to end human trafficking, because it leaves the door wide open for society to turn a blind eye to the plight of victims of sex trafficking.

That’s why we’re stepping up our engagement efforts, by urging businesses, both large and small, to resist associating with any company profiting from human exploitation, and asking citizens to consider joining one of the many letter-writing campaigns and public boycotts aimed at Village Voice. 

Huffington Post Editorial

This editorial, just published in the Huffington Post, provides an in-depth look at disturbing entertainment industry and commercial trends to glamorize prostitution, and why we believe attacking these trends is a critical strategy in the war on human trafficking,

Meanwhile, despite the lack of cooperation from Village Voice, my fellow attorneys general and I are not giving up, so stay tuned!

As always, more information can be found on our website, and updates on what’s happening across the country are updates on the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) website.

I hope you and yours had a great Memorial Day weekend!


Rob McKenna
Attorney General

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