Recovery rally shines light on addiction crisis in Oregon

KATU FILE PHOTO

It was all fun and games at the pool table inside the 4th Dimension Recovery Center on Wednesday. Staff and mentors had a small break from reality in a place where the subject matter is neither fun nor a game.

The state of Oregon is badly losing.

"I would give Oregon an 'F,'" said Tony Vezina, Executive Director of 4th Dimension Recovery Center.

He has the startling statistics staring him right in the face. According to a news release from Oregon Recovers, Oregon has the fourth-highest addiction rate of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and Oregon ranks 50th in access to treatment. They compiled the statistics from a 2016-2017 national survey on drug use and health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Oregon Recovers is a coalition of people in recovery, drug and alcohol counselors and treatment providers who are advocating to transform Oregon’s fractured addiction recovery system into a recovery-based, continuum-of-care that recognizes addiction as a chronic disease requiring a lifetime of attention, the news release stated.

The organization held a rally Thursday, March 14, on the steps of the capitol building in Salem.

Members of the addiction recovery community met with legislators to demand action be taken to turn those numbers around.

Ronald Ross is a mentor at 4th Dimension Recovery Center. He was once an inmate in the Multnomah County Jail for six weeks back in August 2016 after a DUI arrest.

"That's where I started to grasp the concept of, 'I'm killing myself. I'm destroying my life. I'm actually self-destructing,'" he told KATU.

Now, more than two years sober, he is pleading his case to help others at the rally for recovery.

Dr. Reginald Richardson, appointed by Gov. Kate Brown as the executive director of the Alcohol & Drug Policy Commission, was a featured speaker at Thursday's rally.

"The pressure I feel is that we have two people die a day in Oregon due to the disease of addiction," Dr. Richardson said. "A number of Oregonians are really struggling with addiction in our state that impacts our child welfare system, our criminal justice system."

Those working to combat the problem want a drastic transformation.

"When someone has a heart attack they don't have to wait to go get the treatment they need. They get to go to the hospital right then. So we have to think about substance use disorder in the same way," Vezina explained.

"We don't have that for addiction and we need to," Richardson said.

And with that care, for people like Ross, comes a chance at a new life with the hope to leave the old one behind, including everything that's attached.

"Yes, sobriety is a great reward. But allowing people to get back their licenses, allowing some felonies to drop off so some people can get some housing, man, that's what I want to see done."

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