State faces tight timeline in implementing Measure 110 treatment centers

Though Measure 110 decriminalized the possession of small amounts of drugs at the beginning of the month, the work required to implement the improved treatment services statewide has just begun.

Posted: Feb 3, 2021 12:09 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Though Measure 110 decriminalized the possession of small amounts of drugs at the beginning of the month, the work required to implement the improved treatment services statewide has just begun.

It won't be until October that the Oregon Health Authority is required to open 15 Addiction Recovery Centers, facilities run by community organizations that provide 24/7 access to medical treatment and case management.

It's these locations that people cited for possession of drugs will eventually be able to go to for a health assessment in order to waive a $100 fine. 

In the eight months between the implementation of the measure and the required opening of the ARCs, people who receive the citations will instead call a temporary 24/7 hotline. Advocates of the measure say that phone call will be more than enough to get addicts connected to treatment and meets the standards that Oregonians voted for.

"It's not filled with shame or stigma," said Health Justice Recovery Alliance executive director Tera Hurst. "They're asking questions like, 'What's going on with you? What do you need?' It could just be, 'I got caught.'"

According to Hurst, the phone line will be staffed by peer support specialists who will take down information about the citation to get the fee waived, and then learn more about the person's circumstances. The end goal is to connect them with resources like emergency care, mental health services or housing.

"Looking for help, you really need to meet the person right then. Not wait three weeks. The exciting part about this is that warm hand-off. Having that connection to someone who has been there, who sounds like you, who has had experiences as you have," said Hurst.

But Measure 110 mandated more than just the ARCs and health assessments. Some of the $11.25 million of marijuana revenue required by the measure will be distributed as grants to improve treatment services.

How and when the money will be used has yet to be decided, leaving some concerned about a discontinuity of addiction recovery services.

"Ideally, we would have spent a year or two designing these various components of treatment and care," said OHA Behavioral Health Director Steve Allen. "We would have established this in advance so that the treatment services were ready to go when this kicked in."

According to Allen, some regions of the state may already have well-established addiction recovery resources, while others may be lacking in services, funding or well-qualified staff. He said he would be in favor of prioritizing emergency care where it needs to be established.

"Ensure people's lives are safe, that they are not overdosing, that we can provide them the care that is really life-saving measures for them. How can we make sure that first line of protection," he said. 

But the allocation of funds will be decided by OHA's 21-member Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Council, who will meet for the first time in late February. Facing a tight timeline to meet the measure's many requirements, Allen said the road ahead may be challenging.

"I'm not confident that can be stood up by October first," he said of establishing the ARCs.

The council's work will also rely heavily upon the work of state legislators. During the 2021 legislative session, the Committee On Judiciary and Ballot Measure 110 Implementation will have a say in shaping policy while the Ways and Means Committee solidifies the funding mechanisms laid out by the text of the measure.

Sen. James Manning is on the Judiciary Committee and said that the will of the voters will be honored.

"We need to make sure we honor the intent of Measure 110. Those things that are very specific, we need to expand, we need to define and make sure there's lots of clarity with those things that may be ambiguous, we need to drill down to those," he said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kate Brown's proposed two-year budget suggested deprioritizing Measure 110, potentially pushing the rollout of improved treatment resources even further back.

"You can have some policy, but without it you can't do anything. Or if you can fund it and you don't have sound policy its not going to work," said Manning. 

Though many questions remain about Measure 110's implementation as the rollout is already underway, Hurst is confident that policymakers will meet the demanding timeline.

"There will be some bumps in the road, but that can be expected for any new law. It's really about making sure we can get folks as prepared as possible," she said. 

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