Oregon, flooded with treatment funds after drug decriminalization, must now follow the money
Funding for drug treatment centers in Oregon, funded by the state’s pioneering drug decriminalization policy, stood at more than a quarter of a billion dollars on Friday as officials called for closer monitoring of the destination of the money.
That need for oversight was demonstrated Wednesday when state officials terminated a $1.5 million grant deal with a Klamath Falls drug recovery nonprofit accused of failing to submit reports. of complete expenses and data and of having purchased a building for more than twice the authorized amount.
That $1.5 million is just a drop in a huge bucket — $264.6 million has been allocated to recovery centers to date — and state officials have the huge responsibility to make sure the money does what it’s supposed to do: fight drug use in a state with one of the highest addiction rates in the country.
Oregon’s drug decriminalization got off to a rocky start after voters approved it in a 2020 ballot. Only a small number of people accessed treatment services after being ticketed for possession drugs, and funding for treatment providers has been delayed.
But since Friday, $184 million has been distributed to these Behavioral Health Resource Networks, or BHRNs, in a state of 42 million people.
To ensure things run smoothly, the Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Board, responsible for overseeing addiction and recovery centers and the funds to support them, needs more staff, officials say. And the Oregon Health Authority needs more clout to overcome bureaucratic and administrative hurdles to oversight.
But a bill to deliver all that remains stalled in the Senate, along with more than 100 other bills, due to a walkout by Republican senators that began May 3 seeking to block Democratic initiatives on the right to abortion, transgender care and gun safety.
“This bill is grounded in the fundamental principles essential to the success of Measure 110,” Monta Knudson, CEO of Bridges to Change, a Portland-based drug addiction organization, told lawmakers.
The GOP stay cast doubt on whether the bill would pass, even though it had strong bipartisan support upon House approval.
Oregon’s 2020 election measure marked the first time a US state has decriminalized hard drugs. He reframed the “war on drugs” as treatment rather than incarceration. Anyone caught with user amounts can call a hotline for help or face a fine of up to $100. Tax revenues from Oregon’s legal marijuana industry fund treatment as well as harm reduction through needle exchanges and overdose medications.
But with so much money at stake, the opportunities for abuse are ripe.
The Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Board on Wednesday voted to terminate its $1.55 million grant agreement with a Klamath Falls supplier after it allegedly failed to submit full reports of expenses and data.
“I don’t really trust this recipient to move forward with funds because we’re already catching a lot of flak about Measure 110,” council member Hubert Mathews, Jr. said during the interview. meeting “And I think we have to have beneficiaries who can follow the procedures to be able to do this work.
Mathews and another council member, however, said they were surprised that no state official had visited Red is the Road to Wellness in person, or other BHRNs (pronounced “burns”).
“It’s kind of unbelievable,” Mathews said. “I think we should be able to visit some of these BHRNs to see what they are doing physically. That would probably help. I don’t know how it would be. I think we have to have a process.
Red is the Road to Wellness has already received more than $1 million of its allocation, the health authority said. The health authority can recover those funds if it determines that some were spent outside the scope of the grant, health authority spokesman Tim Heider said.
The grant included $290,500 to purchase a building, but instead Red is the Road to Wellness purchased property for $750,000 and failed to secure a state interest in the property as the requires the health authority, Heider said.
William Barnes, executive director of the Klamath Falls outfit, said in a phone interview Thursday that meeting the health authority’s reporting requirements is a challenge.
“The Measure 110 process has been a learning experience for everyone involved, including our organization,” Barnes said. He said he invited health authority staff to visit his facility, but they never accepted him.
Barnes said he spent $561,000 in grants to purchase the building and improvements, with the rest coming from outside sources. In a statement Friday, Barnes said the building will feature eight recovery housing apartments, a recovery drop-in centre, an employment office and a bakery offering on-the-job training.
Barnes said he would appeal the termination while continuing to serve marginalized communities of color.
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