People caught with small amounts of drugs like heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine have only faced a $ 100 bill since voters in Oregon approved Measure 110. File photo
Measure 110 touted decriminalization, treatment
Voters in Oregon who approved Measure 110 were convinced that providing drug treatment for people caught with drugs like methamphetamine or heroin was a better option than sending them to jail.
Called the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, the 2020 measure invested millions of dollars in services to help people with addictions. But he did not fund drug treatment in Jackson County himself.
Instead, the money goes towards things like referring people to treatment, overdose antidote kits, and housing.
Measure 110 diverts millions of dollars of Oregon’s marijuana tax revenue from schools, police and other services to support people with drug addiction.
But because marijuana is federally illegal, Oregon is concerned that direct funding for drug treatment could jeopardize federal money that helps pay for treatment through Oregon’s health plan. Funded by state and federal governments, Oregon’s health plan covers physical, dental, and mental health care – including drug addiction treatment – for low-income residents.
“There was a lot of confusion about what measure 110 would do and what the funding would be used for. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fund treatment, ”said Sommer Wolcott, executive director of the drug treatment organization OnTrack Rogue Valley.
A huge amount of money is at stake. After initially providing $ 33 million in grants to organizations across the state last year, Oregon is on the verge of releasing an additional $ 270 million in grants. Dozens of Rogue Valley organizations have applied for funding while trying to figure out what Measure 110 can cover – and what it can’t.
The situation is all the more confused as, at least on paper, measure 110 can cover drug addiction treatment. In the grant application, “Treatment of Low Barrier Substance Use Disorders” is listed as one of the services eligible for funding.
Low barrier has varying definitions, but it usually means easy-to-access services that impose few conditions. Residential treatment that requires people to abstain from using drugs, for example, is generally not considered low-barrier treatment.
The lack of funding from Measure 110 for drug treatment would not be a problem if enough money was already spent on treatment. But treatment has been chronically underfunded, statewide providers said.
Wolcott said 120 people are on OnTrack’s residential treatment waitlist. Half of these people live in dangerous conditions, facing problems such as homelessness, domestic violence or criminal activity in the household where they live.
“The waiting list is huge,” Wolcott said.
Oregon consistently ranks among the worst states for access to drug treatment, while also suffering from some of the worst rates of drug and alcohol use.
“The challenge is that we are underfunding treatment,” said state representative Pam Marsh, who represents southern Jackson County. “The treatment is not well enough funded by the OHP to begin with. In short, measure 110 will not solve our problems with treatment dollars. It just isn’t.
Marsh said it would be up to the Oregon legislature to find other sources of funding for drug treatment when he convened in February.
Although Measure 110 does not directly fund treatment, Marsh said it provides an unprecedented pool of money to fund innovative programs to keep people healthier while they use drugs, to prevent death from overdose and show them there is a way out when they are ready to quit. using.
A new experience
Long a pioneer in the legalization of marijuana, Oregon was the first state in the country to essentially decriminalize heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and other illicit drugs.
Children and adults caught with user amounts now receive a $ 100 ticket. They can get a fine waiver by calling a state hotline and answering some screening questions.
In the program’s first nine months, 1,280 people got tickets, but only 51 called the hotline – and only eight requested treatment information. Most declined information about the services and said they only called to get the $ 100 fine waived, The Oregonian reported in October 2021.
Since the passage of Measure 110, Wolcott said OnTrack has not seen a dramatic change in the number of people seeking drug treatment. Most people are referred by friends, family, child welfare agencies, and other professionals and organizations.
Wolcott said that after first being rejected for funding when $ 33 million in seed money was distributed, OnTrack eventually secured money through Measure 110 to support bilingual workers’ salaries for positions in the industry. hospitality, foster care, peer support and alcohol and drug addiction counselor.
Because bilingual workers are in great demand, OnTrack must pay a premium to attract and keep these employees. Without outside help to cover their wages, OnTrack would struggle to pay a living wage to its non-bilingual workers, Wolcott said.
Measure 110 prioritizes services for traditionally underserved groups. The field of drug and alcohol treatment has long suffered from a shortage of bilingual and intercultural workers.
Now, with a nationwide labor shortage, drug treatment providers are struggling to attract and retain all types of workers. Wolcott said providers have received payment increases and emergency funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that funding is short-term. Providers need long-term, sustainable funding to scale up drug addiction, residential treatment, and other high-intensity services. She noted that residential centers must be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The labor shortage and constant lack of funding means there is not enough treatment to meet the needs, Wolcott said.
“These two things coming together create a more pronounced crisis for people trying to access services,” she said.
This article is one of a three day series. To read the first part, see www.mailtribune.com/top-stories/2022/01/07/oregon-offers-different-paths-to-addiction-recovery/.
Oregon drug decriminalization measure does not fund treatment on Friday
Saturday: Oregon Offers Different Routes To Addiction Recovery
Sunday: Drug use comes with few penalties in Oregon