It's Time for a More Humane Approach

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

This November, Oregonians are being asked to vote for a more humane, effective approach to substance use disorder. Instead of addressing addiction as a health issue, we continue to arrest and punish people for drugs. It's time for this to change.

From our forty years of experience, Central City Concern (CCC) knows treatment paired with recovery support works. We have helped tens of thousands of people on their road to recovery by pairing treatment with supportive housing, peer support and employment. Unfortunately, we have been operating in a system that has not valued or invested in robust treatment and recovery.

“Despite our intensive discharge care coordination efforts that leverage long-standing collaborative referral pathways with more than a dozen supportive housing and residential treatment programs across the region, we fail to secure supportive housing or residential treatment for 40 out of every 100 people who are experiencing homelessness when they are admitted to Hooper,” says Dr. David Lawrence, Associate Medical Director at CCC’s Hooper Detox Center.

It’s time we make big moves and big investments to correct these gaps.

The Drug Addiction Treatment & Recovery Act, or Measure 110, is a statewide initiative appearing on this November’s ballot. The idea is straightforward: instead of arresting and jailing people for possession of drugs, we would use a portion of existing marijuana tax money to pay for expanded addiction and recovery services, including:

  • Peer support and recovery services so people are able to remain clean and sober;
  • Housing (stabilizing and permanent) for persons with substance use disorder;
  • Harm reduction interventions, including overdose prevention education, access to naloxone hydrochloride and other drug education and outreach.

“People incarcerated for possession offenses are more likely to lose protective factors such as housing, employment and supportive community relationships,” says Dr. Andy Seaman of CCC’s Old Town Clinic. “We now have decades of evidence demonstrating the ineffectiveness of this approach to addiction. It’s time to replace criminalization with care and access to treatment for addiction.”

Our drug laws are deeply inequitable, disproportionately targeting and impacting people of color and in poverty. Regardless of the color of their skin, Oregonians use drugs at similar rates. However, people of color are much more likely to be arrested, charged and convicted of drug crimes. People of color are also sentenced more harshly and pay higher fines. The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission has reported Measure 110 would reduce convictions of Black and Indigenous people by over ninety percent.

CCC supports Measure 110, along with more than seventy organizations and individuals across the state. The Act would shift Oregon toward a health response to addiction, rather than a criminal one, while also removing drugs as an excuse to stop and detain people of color.

Together we can get this important measure over the finish line, but it’s going to take all of us! Here are three things you do TODAY to help:
  1. Has addiction touched your life, or the life of someone you love? Are you fed up with our current criminal justice system? Share your story with the campaign.
  2. Add your name to the Wall of Supporters.
  3. Sign up to volunteer.