Leroy Garcia talks Pueblo, treatment for opioid abuse in Senate Dems’ inaugural podcast

Author: Ernest Luning - March 13, 2017 - Updated: March 13, 2017

State Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo (Courtesy Colorado General Assembly)
State Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo (Courtesy Colorado General Assembly)

Assistant Minority Leader Leroy Garcia discusses Pueblo, a bill to combat opioid abuse and the importance of reading early in life in the first episode of “Behind the Politics,” a weekly podcast produced by the Senate Democrats.

Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat, calls Pueblo a fascinating community and recommends visiting Lake Pueblo, one of the area’s most popular attractions. “The great thing about being in Pueblo is you’re not far from the mountains,” he adds.

The one thing he and his wife can never agree on is where to go out to eat because Pueblo and nearby areas have such a wide variety of excellent restaurants, Garcia tells Senate Minority staffers David Pourshoushtari and Jill Mullen in the roughly 8-minute podcast, which posted to iTunes and YouTube on Monday.

“You can’t go wrong in southern Colorado with any restaurants,” Garcia says. From Italian food to Mexican food to Indian food, he says, the region has more better food options than most outsiders realize, in part because of the many cultures that have settled there over the years.

“It’s really been this big, large melting pot since the inception of CF&I, the steel mill, which at one point was the largest producer west of the Mississippi of rail steel,” Garcia notes.

The podcast is only the latest entry into the new media productions sweeping the Capitol lately, including a weekly video produced by the House Republicans and recent video releases from the Senate Republicans.

Garcia says it feels like politics plays less of a front-and-center role in Pueblo and the surrounding region than it does in other places around the state. In the Marine Corps, he said, “you didn’t look to the left or the right to see if someone was a Democrat or Republican, you were working all in concert to ensure the accomplishment of the mission, the safety and well-being of all your fellow Marines.” Southern Colorado is like that, he added.

After talking about his hometown, Garcia and the staffers turn attention to Senate Bill 74, legislation to establish an opioid abuse treatment pilot program for two years. Garcia is the Senate sponsor and state Rep. Daneya Esgar, another Pueblo Democrat, is the sponsor in the House. The bill would allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to treat certain problems involving opioid use.

“I still work as a practicing paramedic, so it’s important to remind people that the investment we provide on the front end of providing treatment will help reduce the costs associated with health care when you have someone who overdoses and you’re providing emergency medical services at that time, utilizing ambulances, utilizing ERs,” he says, adding that it’s particularly important in rural Colorado because there aren’t as many treatment options as there are in urban and suburban areas.

Mullen then asks Garcia to discuss something that has made him laugh in the Legislature, adding that it’ll be a regular question for podcast guests — basically the rest of the Senate’s Democratic caucus.

Garcia says he has to laugh when he realizes how his parents were always telling him to read — “make sure you’re reading, make sure you’re reading” — and that he wasn’t always spending as much time at it, unsure if it would be as valuable or important as it’s turned out to be.

“Boy, I’m glad I learned that lesson the easier way, because when I went off to college, you read a lot,” he says. “And you would think in college you read a lot, but nowhere in comparison to the General Assembly.” He adds that the volume of reading in the Legislature — from bills to fact sheets to several daily newspapers to blogs — is enormous. “So, for any kids that might be listening,” he says, “make sure you read.”

Wrapping up the discussion with Garcia, the podcast’s hosts note that state Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, a member of the powerful Joint Budget Committee, will be the guest on next week’s episode.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.

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