As we close the door on another National Recovery Month, we are writing to touch base about Ballot Measure 110, which would shift Oregon from a criminal punishment approach to drug addiction to a more humane, equitable and effective health-based approach. Specifically, Measure 110 will expand access to drug treatment, harm reduction and recovery services, all paid for with existing marijuana tax revenue. It would remove criminal punishments for simple drug possession; instead of arrests and lifelong criminal records, people impacted by addiction would get expanded access to treatment and recovery. We can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate the miracle of recovery than by making it more accessible to thousands of struggling Oregonians.
For all of these reasons and many more, The Alano Club, Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon (MHAAO), Bridges to Change, National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Oregon Chapter, Outside In, and The Insight Alliance are proud to be a part of the broad coalition supporting this important measure; a measure all of our boards voted to endorse. Collectively, we are the largest recovery organizations and providers in Oregon; we all support Measure 110 because we’ve seen the damage wrought by our current approach. It is way past the time to save lives and provide more treatment and less punishment to our friends, loved ones, neighbors and community members who
struggle with the disease of addiction.
Measure 110 is supported by nearly 120 organizations, including the American College of Physicians, Oregon Nurses Association, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Crime Victims Rights Alliance, Oregon Academy of Family Physicians, Coalition of Communities of Color, NAACP, and more. The coalition behind this measure is among the largest and most diverse of any coalition ever created to support a ballot measure in Oregon. This is because organizations across the state and sectors know that our current approach to drug addiction is failing Oregonians.
Measure 110 will fundamentally change and lift up our current, broken system that allows so many people to fall through the cracks. It will generate at least $100 million a year for treatment and recovery services, according to the state’s most conservative estimates. That translates into thousands of lives being spared the ongoing misery and pain of active addiction.To put that figure in perspective it’s about four times as much as the Oregon Health Authority currently spends on Substance Use Disorder treatment and recovery.
Measure 110 would also reduce deep disparities within Oregon’s criminal justice system. We can’t stress the importance of this projected benefit enough. A recent report released by the Oregon Secretary of State found that Measure 110 would reduce racial disparities in drug arrests and convictions by over 94%. Talk about systemic change. Measure 110 also requires drug treatment and recovery services be culturally-responsive, trauma-informed and patient-centered.
Right now, nearly 9,000 people per year are arrested for personal drug possession in Oregon, and Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ community members are disproportionately impacted. People of color face unfair racial disparities at every stage of the criminal justice system. Drug arrests can set up lifelong barriers to housing, employment, student loans, and professional licenses, making it nearly impossible for people to get their lives back on track. For immigrants and refugees, the criminalization of addiction can lead to families being torn apart. This approach ruins lives, it’s costly to taxpayers, and it’s not working. That’s why more than a third of the Measure 110 coalition is composed of racial justice and health equity advocacy groups.
The incredible and growing coalition support for Measure 110 shows that the time has come to write a new and better chapter of the Oregon story. There is so much work to be done, and no one right way to fight for justice. But Measure 110 is something we can do to help people right now. It can shift Oregon from being nearly the worst in access to treatment, to the first state in the nation to expand services in this way, paying for them with marijuana tax revenue, and reducing criminal penalties for possession. We must act now, because so many lives are hanging in the balance, and Measure 110 is how we move Oregon forward.
When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, we want the hand of recovery to always be there. But right now, sadly, that’s not the case. For far too many Oregonians impacted by addiction, there is no warm hand to grab hold of, for a way out of the darkness. In recovery we often talk about the “window of willingness”, that moment of clarity when a person struggling with substance use awakens to the idea things could be different. Sometimes that window stays open for a day, but oftentimes it’s a matter of hours or minutes. When passed, Measure 110 will provide critical, 24/7 access to addiction services in Oregon, so that whenever that window opens, wherever that person is in Oregon, someone will be there on the other side to say, “I’m here, you aren’t alone, and we’ll get through this together.”
Founder and Director, Insight Alliance
Brent Canode, MPA
Executive Director, Alano Club of Portland
Delmar de la Torre Stone, LMSW
Executive Director, NASW Oregon Chapter
Janie Marsh Gullickson, MPA, HA, PRC, PSS
Executive Director, Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon
Monta Knudson, CADCII, CRM
Executive Director, Bridges to Change
Haven Wheelock, MPH
Drug Users Health Program Manager, Outside In