With funding on its way to drug treatment and recovery centers, OHA discusses initial delays

With funds on their way to drug treatment and recovery centers, Oregon health officials discussed Ballot Measure 110 initiatives on Thursday.

 

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Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Behavioral Health Director Steve Allen discussed the initiative during a House Interim Committee on Behavioral Health meeting. Ballot Measure 110—passed by voters in November 2020—decriminalized the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs, and diverted some marijuana tax dollars to a grant program. The grant program establishes addiction and recovery centers where residents can get free assessments and referrals to health care services in every county.

The grant program’s current budget is for $276 million over two years, and award letters were initially slated to be sent to providers in January. But funding was delayed as applications remain under review.

“Ballot Measure 110 has not been implemented without some bumps along the way,” Allen said. “But by this fall, as we get the grant monies out, we’ll be in a much better position to do sort of an after-implementation review and prepare reflections on what we’ve learned along the way. In Oregon, we’ve had a significant problem with addiction and use of drugs and alcohol for a long time. And frankly, we underinvested in the system.”

Allen discussed some “missteps” OHA officials took that led to funding delays. He said OHA did not request enough staff, had a shortage of resources, did not adequately support the grantmaking process, and underestimated the number of applicants and time-intensive nature of the evaluation process.

Ballot Measure 110 also established an Oversight and Accountability Council (OAC) for rulemaking and grant-making decisions. Members review applications for Behavioral Health Resource Network (BHRN) funding. Ballot Measure 110 calls for the creation of at least one BHRN (drug treatment and recovery center) in each county.

OAC Tri-Chair Ron Williams said BHRNs must offer behavioral health treatment, peer support and recovery services, housing, and harm reduction interventions, including overdose prevention. 

As of May 27th, the OAC had approved 2 BHRN contracts for nearly $3 million. Harney County received nearly $858,000 and Jefferson County received over $2 million.

“The council approved an additional 5 yesterday, bringing the total up to 7 that are approved,” Allen said.

Award amounts are determined based on several factors, including Medicaid enrollees, homeless counts, and drug overdose numbers. BHRN award winners and award amounts can be tracked here.

Rep. Chris Hoy (D-Salem) discussed the impact funding delays have had on local communities.

“With the delays, I’m hearing a lot of talk in the community about people having less confidence in this system than I think we would all prefer,” Hoy said. “What strategies do you have in place to sort of regain legitimacy within the community?”

Allen said OHA needs to support the organizations that applied to become BHRNs, and get funding to them. 

“What we hope to see in the coming weeks is an investment in resources and strategy that will help get those funds out to those providers so they can do the work they’ve proposed to do,” Allen said. “That’s first and foremost. Until we get that done it’s hard to build any confidence.”

Williams said the OAC is on track to fund 12-15 counties by mid-June. He expects the funding process to go smoother in the future by engaging subject matter experts, and utilizing policy analysis and additional consultations.

“The council is primarily volunteers,” Williams said. “Council members come from all over the state out of a sense of compassion, dedication, and service. It is made up of people who use their lived experience, personal knowledge, and commitment to service for the sole purpose of making a meaningful difference in the lives of the people of Oregon.”