Oregon’s first-in-the-nation experiment at shifting its response to drug use from law enforcement to treatment has gotten off to a slow start, but officials said today that the lengthy process of issuing grants totaling about $300 million to addiction service providers is complete.
“Including the initial Access to Care grants, the Measure 110 rollout has now totaled more than $302 million,” Oregon Health Authority behavioral health director Steve Allen said at a press conference.
“This funding offers local providers a new, substantial, and flexible source of funding that has never previously been available.”
Meaure 110, which voters approved in 2020, decriminalized many drugs and shifted the use of cannabis tax dollars from education to referral and treatment for substance abuse disorder. As WW has written, decriminalization preceded the disbursal of treatment dollars by more than two years. That gap left drug users with carte blanche to consume whatever they wanted but gave them no new resources for treatment.
Allen acknowledged the challenges that gap presented today, as well as the slow and contentious process of allocating the new funding.
“We understand and acknowledge the frustration this caused within our communities, among service providers and among people seeking behavioral health services,” Allen said.
“But when you do something the first time, you’re going to make mistakes and often learn hard lessons. At OHA, we’ve learned that we need to give our partners on the Oversight and Accountability Council more support, speed the distribution of funding, and be ready to give more technical assistance toward Measure 110 implementation.”
The OAC recently finished the marathon task of evaluating hundreds of applications from would-be treatment providers who will now provide service in all 36 counties.
“We know that there was a lot of disappointment about the early pace of our work,” says Sabrina Garcia, an enrolled member of the Klamath Tribe and one of three chairs of the OAC.
“I share that disappointment. But the reality is, you can’t fix a system this broken in just 18 months. What we can do over the next 18 months is support these networks by making sure they operate as intended.”