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Local Addiction Experts Testify In Salem

SALEM, OR -- Central Oregon took center stage in Salem Wednesday, during the first meeting of the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Addiction and Community Safety Response. The bipartisan, bicameral committee is charged with addressing Oregon’s addiction crisis by providing oversight and looking for solutions.

Deschutes County Behavioral Health Director Holly Harris testified about expanding mobile crisis services earlier this year, and told the committee it's making a difference, "Law enforcement brings them to us in lieu of taking them to jail on a low-level crime, or to an Emergency Department, where most of the time they would be released right back to the community. So this is a wonderful alternative to that scenario. We know we’re saving lives, because we’ve had approximately 122 people tell us they would’ve ended their life had our services not been available to them when they needed them."

But Harris also said stable funding is increasingly challenging, and some critical grants expire next year, "We’ve piecemealed it together at this point to create a full time two person team, 24/7, non-law enforcement response and as you can see, based on the data, it’s going quite well." 

Committee Co-Chair Sen. Kate Lieber (D-Beaverton) noted even the state struggles to navigate funding options, "We really look forward to making sure that we can all get on the same page of the system we want, what the gaps are, and then we can figure out who is paying for it for the variety of streams that go into paying in this system."

The head of Central Oregon-based Best Care Treatment Services told the committee nearly half of their admissions are now fentanyl-related, and delaying services or treatment results in death for many. He also testified about the importance of Medication-Assisted Treatment for addicts

Rep. Jason Kropf (D-Bend) co-chairs the committee and Sen. Tim Knopp (R-Bend) is also a member. Knopp grew frustrated with testimony from the Oregon Health Authority, which used 2021 data in a discussion about overdose deaths. Knopp was concerned the agency is using outdated numbers. The OHA representative responded, "There probably is new data; this is what we have for Oregon right now." Knopp, noting new numbers from the CDC, said, "Well, the new data does include Oregon, because I’m looking at it right now. Yours tops out at 1,000 deaths. For 2023, it’s over 1500, so it’s actually more dramatic than what this appears."

More committee meetings are expected prior to the 2024 February session. 


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