What decriminalizing low possession drugs means for treatment centers

MEDFORD, Ore. – The Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act is decriminalizing small amounts of drug possession and putting the focus on treating addiction. However, the OHA tells NBC5 the conversation on how it’ll be implemented statewide is still not done.

With the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act in effect beginning Monday, Oregonians will now be cited rather than criminally charged for having a small number of drugs.

While police are enforcing this new rule, there are concerns locally with the treatment aspect.

“A big part of the intention of this measure was to increase treatment capacity. That looks like it’s somewhere significantly down the road,” said Lori Paris, CEO of Addictions Recovery Center in Jackson Co.

Gov. Kate Brown’s budget recommended delaying allocating the funds to treatment centers. The original plan was to take money from the marijuana tax revenue, however, those funds are already put elsewhere.

“The former receipts of those tax dollars, that they find another way to backfill that so they’re not harmed,” said Paris.

Now it’s a waiting game; waiting for legislators to look over the governor’s recommendations and balancing the budget.

“One of the concerns from the Governor’s office is the measure does not create additional funding. What it does is it moves funding from existing agencies, like the department of education, the department of corrections,” said Steve Allen, Director of Behavior Health for OHA, “the concern has been how to help support those agencies as that money moves out”.

Until then, if cited people will have to call a hotline to wave the $100 fine.

“They’ll receive an initial health screening and an addictions screening. Then they’ll be referred to treatment if it’s appropriate,” said Allen.

People won’t be forced into treatment. However, even for those who want the help, getting into recovery centers is hard to come by in the Rogue Valley.

“There’s not enough capacity to meet demand. So that is already true and it has been true for a very long time,” said Paris.

The OHA said this is only the start of the conversation about addiction treatment. The agency put together an Oversight and Accountability Council where they’ll look over the measure’s progress throughout the state.

The new funding is expected to get voted on in Salem sometime this session, but Paris said they may not see the expected expansion until 2022.

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