BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Health Services is asking for an additional employee to address the growing number of young people using marijuana. County Prevention Supervisor Jessica Jacks says legalizing recreational pot for Oregonians over the age of 21, with passage of Measure 91 in 2014, reversed what had been a positive trend for adolescents, "For the most part, our use rates were decreasing until that point in time. Given research and the trends we’re seeing in all our data, we anticipate seeing adolescent use increase in 2020." She told County Commissioners on Wednesday, "In the prevention world it’s really important for us to focus on adolescence, because we know that if people start using a substance when they’re young, they’re four to five times more likely to have an issue in adulthood. We know that it’s likely in large part because of the changes that are occurring in the developing brain."
Her agency is asking the county to fund an additional prevention specialist to work in La Pine and Sisters, in its next budget, "Currently, our marijuana prevention work is focused in Bend, due to the scope of our funding. When it comes to adolescent marijuana prevention, we are not doing as much as we should. As a county, there is more we could be doing." She says the nonprofit Clear Alliance is based in Redmond and addresses many of the needs in that city. Jacks believes another full-time employee could advance the prevention mission, "This means that we would ensure that what we’re currently providing, is reaching every community in Deschutes County; that every school is provided assistance when they request help with vaping and other issues; that students, teachers, parents and community members are provided education and skill-based training for preventing adolescent marijuana use."
Commissioners appeared sympathetic to the information. Commissioner Patti Adair drew correlations between low high school graduation rates and growing rates of marijuana use among students.