Resources for Ballot Measure 110 addiction recovery services are finally starting to get approved across the state, but there's some disagreement in Washington County about how things are going.
Oregon voters passed Measure 110 in 2020. Effective Feb. 1, 2021, the new law reduced the penalty for the possessing small amounts of illegal drugs — decriminalizing, not legalizing them — and established a drug addiction treatment and recovery program, which would use some funding from the state's marijuana tax revenue and prison savings.
Monta Knudson is executive director of Bridges to Change, an organization that's part of Washington County's network of facilities offering these treatment and recovery services.
Knudson has been involved since campaigning for the measure, he said, and he's served on committees designing the service structure for Measure 110 and worked on the implementation process of the measure through the Health Justice Recovery Alliance.
Healthcare organizations around the state, including in Washington County, are just starting to get actual funding and approval to act as official Behavioral Health Resource Networks, Knudson said, meaning they are designated to provide recovery services.
The Oregon Health Authority posts updates on the BHRN approval process online, too. As of late July, according to the OHA dashboard, Washington County has one BHRN that includes 19 organizations, and the county has over $20.5 million allocated for funding so far.
The funding is second only to Multnomah and Lane counties, which have almost $59 million and $29 million allocated, respectively.
For Washington County, this means — at least on paper — there will be 19 facilities that together can provide the right services, such as peer support, housing services, harm reduction intervention, overdose prevention, and other low-barrier treatment and support, to assist people struggling to come out of drug addiction.
While the drug decriminalization part of Measure 110 happened back in February 2021, it has taken a while for the other aspect of Measure 110 — providing treatment and recovery services — to start working, Knudson said.
"There's been a lot of moving parts. … What M110 has asked organizations to do across the state is something that we've never done before, and that's come together and collaborate and create these Behavioral Health Resource Networks together," Knudson said. "And so this last year has been just a tremendous amount of work on the providers' side, collaborating and creating networks that are meaningful and create access."
Now, the county's in the final stretches of getting funds out the door to providers, he said.
Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton has been one of Measure 110's outspoken critics, both during the 2020 election campaign and since its passage.
This past June, Barton appeared on "Fox & Friends," the popular conservative morning show on the Fox News Channel, where he said the measure was a "false promise."
Barton said he believes Measure 110 is contributing to the addiction and overdose crisis in Oregon.
"I do not believe that 110 is the only cause of the current problem. I believe it's part of the mix, a significant factor," Barton said. "The best analogy I can say is it's like throwing gasoline on a fire. It didn't cause the fire, but it certainly exacerbates the fire."
Oregon is definitely seeing high overdose numbers, but the rest of the country is, too.
An infographic from the Health Justice Recovery Alliance cited Sean Hurst, Oregon's chief medical examiner, who told Willamette Week that Oregon's experience with drug-related deaths is consistent with trends in the United States as a whole.
Knudson agreed, and he said we can't forget about the pandemic's impact on addiction.
"(COVID) literally shut the doors of providers across the state … (it) had a huge, huge impact of where we sit today, because what COVID did was expose a completely fractured system that was already in place," Knudson said. "And so when we look around our communities today, what we see is this is the impact of an underfunded system of care."
Saying Measure 110 is failing, Knudson said, is naive and "a huge disservice to the community to put a failed system and COVID on the shoulders of a (decriminalization) of a possession of drugs."
Barton argues that voters were duped into supporting Measure 110, because the results haven't been as expected so far.
"Maybe I didn't vote for it — and I didn't — but most people did, so that's the way it works," Barton said. "But what they voted for was the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, and I firmly believe that most people felt as though the Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act would actually provide increased treatment, and what we've seen is that just hasn't happened."
If Knudson had to guess, he expects that the service network in Washington County could finally come together over the next four to eight months — but every county and every organization is different.
"The law is passed. Here we are, right?" Knudson said in response to critics of Measure 110. "The more we have infighting around this legislation and the implementation of services, the harder it's going to be. We need to work with law enforcement to come together as a community and give this our best try to make this work."
Troy Shinn contributed to this report.
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