On Tuesday, March 27, the state of Oregon took some groundbreaking steps to acknowledge the crisis the state is facing. The Governor signed two bills designed to increase access to substance abuse treatment, while also publicly acknowledging the problem. Substance abuse treatment providers hailed these steps as both necessary and welcome.
This article looks at the Governor’s declaration and the two bills she just signed.
Substance Abuse Treatment and Governor Declaration
At the end of March, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed an order declaring a state public health crisis. Her declaration said substance abuse was a big problem in Oregon.
According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, the Governor had three primary goals in signing the declaration:
- First, the Governor sought to raise awareness about the issue and substance abuse treatment in the state by casting a spotlight on the problem.
- Second, the document served to help open doors to resources that will focus on addiction as a public health crisis and not a criminal issue.
- Third, the declaration served as the direct opposite of the federal approach to criminalize substance abuse. These laws seek to provide care and caring for the vulnerable populations affected by drug abuse. This includes the addicted person, their immediate families, and their children who are so often just collateral damage.
The Governor’s declaration came with a compassionate statement:
We all know that addiction is blind to circumstance. But its highest costs are borne by our children, whose parents are unable to care for them by struggling with addiction. It is the number one driver of placements in our foster care system.
New Oregon Laws and Substance Abuse Treatment
Governor Kate Brown also signed two bills in Portland that day that set timelines for the Oregon Alcohol and Drug Policy state committee to study addiction and substance abuse treatment. The first law, HB 4134, said the committee should release their recommendations by no later than 2020.
The commission has publicly struggled to complete their work, so these initiatives were seen as positive steps toward moving the Oregon bureaucracy toward a process of assessment and recommendations to increase substance abuse treatment.
Governor Brown also changed the leadership of that committee, which, according to the Albany Democrat-Herald, struggled with some of the same issues felt by the substance abuse treatment community, including underfunding and a lack of staff.
The second bill, HB 4137, required drug prescription providers to register with the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring program.
State Declaration Sets New Tone for Substance Abuse Treatment in Oregon
Pundits suggested that, while the declaration calling addiction a crisis in Oregon would not necessarily release funds that have a specific effect, the Governor’s effort to use the bully pulpit of her public office to raise awareness was generally lauded.
The goal, reported the Albany Democrat-Herald, was to “galvanize state agencies and set a new tone.” Substance abuse treatment providers lauded all of these actions as important steps to help the public understand the depth and breadth of the problem while helping to foster solutions that would improve the lives of everyone in the state – not just those struggling with addiction.