Opinions vary on the effectiveness of drug treatment and the act of recovery

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Dec. 18 – THE GREAT – Reactions remain mixed to Oregon’s law decriminalizing drugs and increasing the availability and use of addiction recovery options.

Measure 110 was passed by 58.5% in Oregon in November 2020 and came into effect on February 1. In Union County, 5,708 people (37.8%) voted in favor of the measure, while 8,650 (57.3%) voted against Measure 110.

“The difficulty in measuring the impact of 110 on our community and police services today is that we only have nine months of experience in determining the short and long term effects of measure 110. La Grande Police Lt. Jason Hays said. “COVID-19 also complicates this since COVID mandates, unemployment and other COVID stressors also impact criminal behavior and activity. “

The measure adjusts the approach to drug addiction and abuse, reclassifying the penalties for drug possession. The penalty for drug possession is essentially the price of a parking ticket. The new punishment for smaller amounts of controlled substances is a fine of $ 100, which can be avoided if the person requests a health examination at a drug rehab center.

This change in enforcement of the drug possession law was put in place to focus on drug addiction as a public health problem, an issue that encourages drug addicts to seek addiction services in the United States. instead of being placed behind bars.

Law enforcement

While Measure 110 was drafted with the aim of improving drug treatment, state law enforcement has had mixed feelings about the new procedures. The measure has changed the approach to combating drug addiction as state police departments take a more responsive approach to drug use in communities.

“Historically, we have been proactive in our fight against illicit drug abuse, drug possession, drug manufacturing and trafficking in ways that increase livability within our community,” Hays said. “With the implementation of popularly voted Measure 110, it sends the message that illicit drug activity is no longer a priority in our Oregon communities as it used to be.”

According to Hays, local law enforcement in La Grande was more successful in treating drug addiction when the court ordered individuals to undergo drug treatment.

“We deal daily with drug addicted citizens, whose health is deteriorating because we do not have the ability to arrest them on drug charges that would usually require them to undergo court-ordered drug treatment when they refuse to. undergo treatment on a voluntary basis, “he said. “There is now very little liability for people with drug addiction, and we are seeing an increase in some criminal behavior that could be contributing to the effects of Measure 110.”

According to Hays, there is a 135% increase in theft cases, a 113% increase in criminal mischief calls, a 33% increase in assault calls and an 83% decrease in offenses. to the law on drugs which correlate with the start of measure 110. application in February. The statistics are based on a comparison of criminal activity related to drug use in Union County between February-November 2019 and February-November 2021.

Hays noted that it is difficult to quantify whether these statistics are a direct result of measure 110. He also said these figures do not include calls for service when a report has not been taken by the forces. of the order. Another factor affecting crime trends across the country is the COVID-19 pandemic.

That being said, Hays also noted that mental health is the broadest trend playing a negative role in communities.

“My personal feeling is that the increase in the number of people with mental health problems has had a much bigger impact on our police services and our community than measure 110,” he said. “Although some mental health issues may also be linked to measure 110 due to chronic drug abuse.”

He pointed out that it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of Measure 110, as a major change in law enforcement takes time to take full effect.

Legal system

Law enforcement does not see the same results with easing penalties for drug abuse as when drugs were criminalized. That’s not to say that the focus on recovery and mental health can’t be effective, but steps to shift the focus are still in place.

La Grande’s attorney Jared Boyd weighed in on what he noticed from a legal perspective, noting that there has been a significant drop in cases due to Measure 110. Although the The intent of the measure is to make treatment and recovery options readily available, he said these options are lacking in eastern Oregon.

“It was a measure that was well intentioned,” he said. “I agree with the objective of the measure, but there has to be a much better system in place.”

Boyd said there were far fewer treatment options in eastern Oregon than in western Oregon, which could negatively affect the effectiveness of Measure 110 in l eastern Oregon.

Court statistics across the state also show that individuals do not show up frequently for their court appearances. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, defendants have not appeared in circuit court in about three-fifths of the 978 cases until Oct. 1 since the measure took effect in early February.

According to Boyd, a rough estimate of the reduction in criminal cases filed would be around 20 to 30 percent. He said he also expects a big ripple effect on defense lawyer budgets due to the lack of drug-related cases.

“I agree with the spirit. The prison doesn’t deal with drug addiction, we know that,” Boyd said. “There must be changes and it must be fully implemented to right the crimes. “

Path to recovery

Early figures may not reflect the long-term effects of the measure in Oregon, but the early stages of Measure 110 saw a major upheaval in the way drug abuse is handled in the state.

In a letter from Amy Ashton-Williams, executive director of the Oregon Washington Health Network, she described what she described as positive progress that has been made since Measure 110 was passed.

“Measure 110 alone cannot solve this national crisis, but it is an important tool to stop treating drug addiction as a moral failure deserving punishment, and to start treating it as a health problem deserving of medical attention. “said Ashton-Williams.

OWhN is one of 70 organizations funded by the first round of Measure 110 grants that were distributed this summer. The idea of ​​increased recovery and treatment comes from the idea that money saved on the cost of arrests and incarceration can go towards increased medical care.

According to Ashton-Williams, OWhN has opened three new Peer Drop-in Centers in Hermiston, Milton-Freewater and Pendleton – spaces where individuals can share experiences, get help, and meet people who have overcome their addiction.

While some elements of the new system need time to implement, and some aspects of law enforcement can have negative effects, health officials such as Ashton-Williams are optimistic about it. future of measure 110.

“Communities in Oregon have been denied proper access to addiction recovery services for so long that it will be some time before we feel the full benefits of this new law,” said Ashton-Williams. . “We have a lot of people who, for too long, have fallen through the cracks. We are working hard to meet the enormous need, ensuring there is no wrong door when it comes to accessing intensive care.

As Oregon’s new drug abuse and possession treatment method takes hold, only time will tell the full impact of Measure 110 on substance abuse in the state.

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