PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – In the 2020 election, Oregon voters could have a chance to make a big decision about how the state handles drug addiction.
Oregon’s Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act would mandate addiction recovery centers in communities around the state, potentially making drug treatment more widely available.
The centers would be overseen by the Oregon Health Authority and funded by surplus money from Oregon’s marijuana revenues and savings from the criminal justice system, since the proposed measure also reduces criminal penalties for drug possession.
That last part has raised some eyebrows in the criminal justice community.
“This is a terrible idea,” said Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton. “It’s disconnected to what’s best for Oregonians. It will lead to increased crime and increased drug use.”
The measure’s supporters, on the other hand, believe people guilty only of addiction to drugs have been given jail time instead of treatment for years, with overwhelmingly negative effects on their lives.
“Instead of caring for people, offering appropriate treatment, we have decided to incarcerate them and by incarcerating them, we take away the very things that allows their recovery,” said Andy Seaman, an addiction specialist and assistant professor of medicine.
Janie Gullickson, a former addict who is now executive director of Mental Health Addiction Associates of Oregon, said jail time and criminal charges kept her in the cycle of addiction for years.
“I think my five children would have appreciated if I’d gotten treatment 20, 22 years earlier. Had access, had known how to get access,” said Gullickson, who is also one of the measure’s chief petitioners.
The proposed measure is currently in its early stages of development.
Organizers have been given permission by the Secretary of State to begin collecting signatures.
More than 100,000 signatures would be required to get the measure on the ballot.
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