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The new funding is part of Measure 110, which decriminalized possession of hard drugs and funded new behavioral health networks.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Police inspected an abandoned house littered with drug needles in 2004. The state commission charged with funding behavioral health care — as part of a new drug decriminalization policy approved by voters — is one step closer to getting money out the door.

The Oversight and Accountability Council created as part of Measure 110 last year has announced plans to distribute $270 million to the organizations that will treat those addicted to drugs.

With the grant proposal period now open, the council will continue to establish rules for the new Behavioral Health Resource Networks, known as BHRNs.

"Our vision is that by funding BHRNs, there will be a collaboration of networks that include culturally and linguistically specific and responsive, trauma-informed and gender affirming care that will meet the needs of anyone seeking services who have been negatively affected by substance use and the war on drugs," said Oversight & Accountability Tri-chair LaKeesha Dumas.

Measure 110 essentially decriminalized possession of user amounts of hard drugs — including heroin, cocaine and meth — by changing the relevant offense from a misdemeanor to a violation, similar to a parking citation, punishable by a $100 fine or completing a health assessment over the phone.

Around 200 people a month are still being arrested for drug-dealer levels of possession, The Oregonian reported recently, with most being cited for personal use ignoring their court dates or going through the motions during the health screen.

Officials with the Oregon Health Authority are confident the new treatment networks will provide a holistic solution that reduces harm and is "more helpful, caring and cost-effective than punishing and criminalizing people who need help," according to a news release.

"The collaboration taking place across the state with addiction recovery providers, the Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Council, Oregon Health Authority and other key stakeholders signifies that we're finally on track when it comes to supporting Oregonians struggling with substance use," said Monta Knudson, executive director of the nonprofit Bridges to Change.

Zane Sparling
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