Oregon House Behavioral Health committee hears updates on Measure 110: “The Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act”
The House Behavioral Health committee held an informational meeting Wednesday on Measure 110. In this informational meeting they received updates from stakeholders on the implementation of the measure.
Measure 110 reclassified personal and noncommercial possession of schedule I-IV drugs from a misdemeanor to a violation. This means that instead of receiving incarceration for possessing drugs, individuals will now be subject to a $100 fine or must complete a health assessment. Individuals who are caught selling drugs are still subject to a criminal penalty.
The measure was on the ballot in the 2020 election and passed with 58.46% voter approval.
This measure also requires the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to establish a temporary 24/7 telephone addiction recovery center (ARC) and form an Oversight and Accountability Council (OAC) by Feb. 1. It then requires them to establish permanent 24/7 ARCs throughout the state by Oct. 1. The OHA will also be required to reward grants to ARCs and other agencies or organizations to increase access to care.
Steve Allen, behavioral health director of the OHA, testified on the progress of the authority on establishing the two components that are required by Feb. 1.
The OAC contains 17 council positions. The measure required a diverse range of perspectives such as people who have lived with a SUD, members of communities that are disproportionately impacted by law enforcement related to substances, physicians that specialize in SUDs, social workers and representatives from a coordinated care organization, among many others.
The OHA received 118 applications for the positions available. Of those applications, 100 identified as having a lived experience with SUDs and 50 identified as a person of color. There was also representation from tribal communities, from all regions of Oregon and from all the perspectives required by the measure. So the OHA did not have to go out and request representation from certain communities, said Allen.
Appointments to the committee will be made on Feb. 1.
OHA is contracting with Lines for Life to staff the temporary telephone ARC. They will be providing 24/7 triage.
“So folks call in, there’s an initial social services screening and health assessment,” Allen said. “There’s a comprehensive substance use disorder screening that’s done by a qualified specialist, and then development of an individual intervention plan and intensive case management. This is all being done in the interim through the Lines for Life contract.”
According to Allen there are some challenges with the implementation of the measure.
“This is a very aggressive timeline,” he said. “Ideally we would have spent a year or two really getting a handle on what’s needed, what the right array of services would be, how to really meet the needs of the people who will be receiving services through this measure, before making the changes in the criminal justice system.”
Allen said that a phased implementation may have been better, so that the OHA could really have a grasp on the services needed by communities.
Even before the pandemic, Oregon was already in the middle of an addiction crisis, said Tera Hurst, executive director of the Oregon Health Justice Recovery Alliance. One to two Oregonians die of a drug overdose everyday and one in 10 struggle with SUDs, she said.
“The pandemic is making this crisis much worse and we can’t afford to wait,” Hurst said. “Recent data from the OHA, shows that overdose deaths in Oregon were up 70% this spring compared to that same time last year. We don’t have the luxury of waiting to create a perfect system when so many people are in desperate needs for services.”
Another problem with the implementation of the measure is the lack of specified integration of services in the bill.
“It [Measure 110] stands up an isolated set of services apart from the rest of health care and behavioral health care systems,” Allen said. “I frankly think that’s the wrong approach. Many people who have addictions also have mental illness, physical health problems, mental problems. We think the best, strongest, most effective approach is to ensure that people who are calling into the line have access to a broad range of not only behavioral health services, including co-occurring services, but primary care services.”
Allen also said that having a gap analysis of services available would make implementation of the measure much more successful.
The committee also held a public hearing on HB 2313 during the meeting to address this need for a gap analysis. This bill requires the director of the OHA to work with the Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission to take inventory of services available to treat substance use disorders (SUDs) and support individuals in recovery.