Washington County officials say money from a nationwide lawsuit against opioid producers and distributors could help build a planned addiction treatment and recovery center.
The national opioid litigation settlement is due to pay Oregon around $330 million over the next 18 years. About 55% will go toward local governments; as much as $12 million or over $650,000 per year could be paid to Washington County.
At least 70% of settlement dollars must go towards a wide range of opioid mitigation efforts.
Washington County behavioral health special projects supervisor Kristin Burke said she hopes the settlement dollars will go towards an addiction and recovery center already in the works.
In July, Washington County commissioners approved plans for the Center for Addictions Triage and Treatment, or CATT. Burke estimated it could cost $40 million.
"We have a lot of outpatient services, but what we really lack in our community is infrastructure for really intensive, inpatient services. We have no publicly funded detox beds and few residential treatment beds," Burke said. "We're looking at building a center that incorporates all these services together."
In addition to the settlement, behavioral health reserves and marijuana tax dollars are funding the new addiction center, although full funding has not yet been secured.
"We know we need more money than we currently have. We are hopeful that new funding from Measure 10, the opioid legal settlements, grants and other identified resources will supply the funding we need to fill the gaps and achieve our vision for the CATT," the Washington County Department of Health and Human services said in a statement last month.
Although the CATT was originally proposed as one campus, Burke said plans have been updated to include one campus in Beaverton and another in Hillsboro, and the county is currently reviewing three properties.
One campus would house intensive services such as sobering, withdrawal management and residential living while the other would house community-based, outpatient services such as peer support, therapy, counseling and other crisis services for substance abuse.
Over the summer, the Pamplin Media Group reported Washington County lacks detox and sobering beds outside hospitals or jails. While The National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Centers recommends the county have at least 184 public residential treatment beds, the county has 28.
Beyond bed capacity, Washington County addictions program coordinator Naomi Hunsaker said the county has worked in recent years to expand access to naloxone or Narcan, a nasal spray that can quickly reverse an opioid overdose. The spray is available at pharmacies but costs around $150.
During the pandemic, Hunsacker said the county has equipped public libraries and homeless shelters with Narcan kits.
"We are seeing a huge increase in both bystander and law enforcement intervention with Narcan," Hunsaker said. "Technically, any person could go into a pharmacy and they would prescribe Narcan to you, but it's expensive."
In 2020, Oregon reported 472 unintentional opioid overdose deaths, up from 280 in 2019, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
Between January and April 2021, there were 208 unintentional opioid overdose deaths across the state.
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