Opinion M110: Measure won't fix addiction services
Measure 110 would decriminalize the possession of lethal doses of addictive drugs for children, teens, and adults in Oregon — in the midst of our addiction crisis. On top of this, over the next three years it would take away $56 million from addiction treatment and prevention, and take away $90 million from schools. And despite false promises, it would not guarantee the creation of a single new treatment bed.
If Measure 110 passes, a 15-year-old could get caught with just under 1 gram of heroin, 2 grams of meth, 2 grams of cocaine, 12 grams of psilocybin, 40 user units of oxycodone, 40 user units of methadone, 40 user units of LSD, or 5 user units of MDMA in their pocket — and the only consequences would either be paying a $100 fine or getting a health assessment.
Learn more about Measure 110
- Vote Yes campaign website
- Vote No campaign website
- Read a counterpoint opinion piece here
They could hide either from their parents.
Whereas right now, if a kid — or an adult — gets caught with drugs in Oregon, they are offered state-funded treatment. This is crucial because most people struggling with addiction can't stop using drugs on their own. If they could, they wouldn't be addicted. In fact, recent studies show that more than 80% of opioid and meth users refused treatment when it was offered. But many people in long-term recovery credit the external motivation of court diversion programs with "saving my life" or "rescuing me from myself."
One of the hardest things in my career has been sitting in living rooms across from parents whose children are caught in addiction. They tell me about how they've tried everything. Tried sending their kids to treatment. Tried talking with them. Tried begging them. And nothing worked. At the end of the conversation they would say, "I just wish he'd get arrested so he could get help."
Some of those situations ended with funerals. Some ended in the emergency room.
But many kids do get the juvenile court intervention they needed, do get treatment, and do turn their lives around. Court interventions save lives.
Measure 110 would take the crucial intervention of court diversion programs away from children, teens and young people — without creating any new proven pathways to treatment. The measure's proponents admitted this in their endorsement interview with the Oregonian.
And that will cost lives.
It gets worse. Despite false promises, Measure 110 would not guarantee the creation of a single new treatment bed. The measure's proponents admitted this during their endorsement interview with Willamette Week.
All the measure requires is the creation of 16 centers that provide screenings and referrals, not treatment. Oregon doesn't have a shortage of health assessment and referral centers. We have a shortage of residential treatment beds.
Screenings are not treatment. Referrals are not access to treatment.
If Measure 110 were truly about more treatment, it would have set clear targets for more real treatment, like more sobering centers and detox facilities, more residential treatment beds, more outpatient care, and more certified drug and alcohol counselors for parents, youth, and adults. Measure 110's does none of this, and its unnecessary referral centers will just add people to treatment waitlists that are already weeks, if not months, long.
Closing pathways to treatment and taking away funding during an addiction epidemic will lead to a spike in overdoses and alcohol-related deaths. Already, every day one to three Oregonians die from a drug overdose while five die from alcohol-related causes. And in the pandemic, we're seeing substance use soar.
Measure 110 is opposed by 27 out of 36 district attorneys in the state because D.A.s believe that our criminal justice system enforcement plays an important role in getting people the help they need.
Measure 110 is also opposed by the Oregon Council for Behavioral Health, the statewide substance use and mental health treatment provider association, because treatment providers know it does not address fundamental problems in Oregon's addiction treatment and recovery system.
Join us in voting no on Measure 110. Oregon deserves better. Our loved ones struggling with addiction deserve better.
Jim O'Rourke is a Portlander in long-term recovery from addiction, a parent to adult children who have struggled with addictions, and defense attorney for people arrested for crimes related to their addictions. Visit VoteNoOn110.com for more information.
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