OPINION M110: People battling addiction need treatment, not jail
As a nurse, I see the heartbreak of addiction every day on the job. As a woman in long-term recovery, it's heartbreak that I know. I struggled with addiction for many years, and it's both my professional and personal experiences that make me a passionate supporter of Measure 110.
Measure 110 will remove criminal penalties for small amounts of personal possession of drugs and connect people with drug treatment and recovery services. The measure does not legalize drugs, but greatly expands access to drug treatment and recovery services throughout Oregon using funds from our state's existing marijuana tax. Oregon is in the midst of an addiction crisis; we rank nearly last in the country in access to drug addiction treatment. One to two Oregonians die from drug overdose every day; if I hadn't been able to access treatment when I did, that could have easily been me.
Learn more about Measure 110
- Vote Yes campaign campaign website
- Vote No campaigncampaign website
- Read a counterpoint opinion piece here
I grew up in a big family and had a very busy life going to school and competing in gymnastics. That changed suddenly when I was injured. In losing gymnastics, I felt like I lost my identity, and that is when my substance abuse began. I was addicted to drugs for nearly a decade. Drug addiction cost me my health, my close relationships and my home. Life felt hopeless. I knew that if I couldn't find help I would die or end up in prison.
My family did everything they could to help me access treatment. But long wait lists and the huge cost for out-of-state private treatment centers made it hard to find help. Finally, I was one of the lucky few able to get into a local treatment facility. Treatment, not jail, is what made the difference in my life. Measure 110 will make this opportunity for recovery available to more people across Oregon.
My experience with addiction allows me to more easily connect with my patients. They come to me so beaten down and feeling hopeless. I love the work I do because I get to be someone who loves them where they're at in life, who offers them that same sliver of hope that I needed to feel like my life could be saved — and that it was worth saving.
Many of my patients are in and out of the hospital simply because there are no treatment options, and not enough housing to help them find stability or recovery while they wait to get into treatment. They don't know how to stop, can't access help, and in the meantime get arrested for possessing small amounts of drugs for personal use. It's a cycle that too often ends with prison or overdose. And it doesn't have to be this way.
Oregon needs a better approach to drug addiction, and that's exactly what Measure 110 offers. Take it from me as someone who works on the front lines of Oregon's addiction crisis and who has experienced addiction personally: Measure 110 will save lives, and it's endorsed by more than 110 organizations, including the Oregon chapter the American College of Physicians, the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians and the Oregon Nurses Association.
I urge you to vote "yes" on Measure 110.
Bridget Bassett is a Portland-area nurse treating patients with substance use disorders, among other illnesses.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.