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Ripple Effect: Measure 110 funding, shortfalls and the OAC's vision

A woman enters the Great Circle drug treatment center in Salem, Oregon, on March 8, 2022. The center gets funding from Oregon's pioneering drug decriminalization law and illustrates an aspect of the new system, one year after it took effect. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)
A woman enters the Great Circle drug treatment center in Salem, Oregon, on March 8, 2022. The center gets funding from Oregon's pioneering drug decriminalization law and illustrates an aspect of the new system, one year after it took effect. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)
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Measure 110 has been in effect since February 2021, and while many are saying the measure has failed to do what it had promised voters in the November 2020 elections, others are saying it’s still too soon in its implementation to judge its efficacy.

The measure was created in an effort to treat substance abuse as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue. After 58.46% of Oregonians voted in favor of the measure, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize personal possession amounts of illegal drugs.

Measure 110 reclassified minor possession of drugs from a misdemeanor to a new Class E violation, and a large possession from a felony to a Class A misdemeanor.

The anticipated savings from the criminal justice system, as a result of keeping people out of prison for personal possession of drugs, combined with the state’s cannabis sales tax has been redirected from the state’s school and police funds as well as city and county funds, to now fund drug treatment and recovery centers in every county.

A change in cannabis taxes to fund drug treatment services

$265 million of Measure 110 funding, raised through Oregon state taxes on cannabis sales, is awaiting distribution. The first round of Measure 110 funding went out in May of 2021, which was $31.4 million.

Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Council Tri-Chair Blue Valentine said this second round of money, set to be distributed between June and October according to the timeline from the Oregon Health Authority, will fund Behavioral Health Resource Networks (BHRNs) in every Oregon county. She said all 7 elements of the BHRNs will be funded in all 36 Oregon counties to provide wraparound services for drug treatment and recovery.

Each BHRN is required to have the following:

  • Screening and Comprehensive behavioral health needs assessment
  • Individual Intervention planning, case management and connection to services
  • Low Barrier Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Treatment
  • Peer support, mentoring, and recovery services
  • Housing Services
  • Harm Reduction Intervention
  • Supported Employment
  • In the Rogue Valley, Rogue Retreat applied to receive a second round of funding after receiving $166,675 in last year’s round of funding.

“We’re the housing end of it,” Rogue Retreat Executive Director Chad McComas said. “We used that (first round of Measure 110 funds) just to keep funding what we do, housing.”

Measure 110 requires organizations that don't provide all 7 of elements to create connections with another BHRN to ensure participants in their program get the full scope of treatment. McComas said his organization, along with nearly 30 other organizations in Jackson County, applied for this upcoming round of money.

Our application included helping keep our housing options open for people that might need it,” McComas said. “If we can put that roof over their head, even if that’s only a tent or a pallet structure, they can then connect with the other amazing organizations in our community to get the professional help they need.”

According to the OHA’s BHRN funding formula, Jackson County is slated to receive the 5th most Measure 110 money of Oregon counties at $17.48 million. McComas and Valentine both said one of the biggest challenges of making that money work is paying for the housing element of the BHRNs to provide people with a stable living environment to begin their recovery.

McComas spoke about how difficult it can be to buy and remodel a space to fit into the BHRN housing mold.

“I know we’re currently looking for a permanent location for the (Urban) Campground and it looks like we’re going to be somewhere between 1 and 2 million to buy that land. So that’s a start,” McComas said. “Then you have to do all the infrastructure and the building that you need on it or the pallet structures or whatever. It could cost somebody some significant change.”

McComas said when Rogue Retreat started housing people at Hope Village, the city of Medford allowed the nonprofit to use a piece of city property for a lease price of $1 per year. This allowed them to get started and house people in need much sooner than they would have been able to otherwise with all of the costs of buying and remodeling a building. McComas hopes other cities are as helpful in setting up the housing portion of the BHRN in their communities as Medford was.

“I feel sorry for some of these communities that need to have these services and it’s going to take some major work to get them going. You got to have an organization that has a heart for that and has enough funding so they can get the staff for that and get the thing up and running,” McComas said. “But there are some communities that don’t and some communities that really don’t want it anyway. So it’s going to be an interesting challenge for the Oregon Health Authority to make this work.”

Aside from Jackson county’s $17.48 million allocation in Measure 110 funding, the remaining four counties in our area have received the following allocations.

  • Josephine County: $10.75 million
  • Klamath County: $5.62 million
  • Curry County $1.56 million
  • Lake County: $1.23 million

Those funds are available to any eligible service entity that is approved. Currently, Jackson County has 18 approved service entities, Josephine County has 8, Klamath County has 6, Curry County has 2 and Lake County has 1.

Measure 110 tickets aren't motivating people to seek treatment

One of the biggest shortfalls of Measure 110 discussed by multiple agencies and organizations has been the large gap between the number of people cited with Measure 110 violations and the number of people who call Oregon’s Addiction Recovery Center hotline. That hotline, overseen by the nonprofit Lines for Life, puts people with violations of possession amounts of illegal drugs through a health assessment that can connect them with drug treatment and other services.

If a person calls Lines for Life, as instructed by police when issued the Measure 110 related citation, they can wipe out their fine associated with the violation, but not everyone follows through.

“There’s an enormous gap between the number of people who are ticketed and the number of people who call,” Lines for Life CEO Dwight Holton said.

Holton said since Measure 110 went into effect in February of 2021, they have received just 111 calls for health assessments related to Measure 110 violations. According to the Oregon Judicial Department, in that same period of time, Oregon officers issued 2,413 citations for minor possession amounts of illegal drugs. That means 4.6% of people ticketed have actually called Lines for Life to determine if they should seek drug treatment and recovery services.

“I had expected more people to call for sure," Holton said, "and that’s a gap we’re trying to figure out how to close."

The number of people calling the line is an average of seven people per month.

Holton listed three main reasons he believes 95.4% of people ticketed with Measure 110 violations are not calling his organization’s hotline:

  1. Addiction challenges a person's ability to get organized, admit the problem and ask for help.
  2. There are currently no consequences for ignoring the $100 fine and choosing not to call Lines for Life.
  3. The Lines for Life phone number is currently not on the uniform ticket for all Oregon police departments.

“We’ve been pushing very hard for the Oregon Judicial Department to add Measure 110 to that ticket," Holton said. "I think once that happens we’ll see a pretty significant jump in the number of people who are calling us.”

Right now, most Oregon police departments hand out a business card with the Lines for Life contact information along with the citation for minor possession amounts of illegal drugs so the person can call and get their health assessment. Grants Pass Police Chief Warren Hensman has taken the initiative to include the Lines for Life number directly on his department’s citations.

News 10 asked Hensman if he feels that change has made a difference in the number of people actually calling the Addiction Recovery Center hotline.

“I don’t, I really don’t,” Hensman said. “But with saying that, if it helps one person, then that’s been successful.”

Hensman mentioned a possible step the Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Council (OAC) could take to make the more than 95% gap between the number of people ticketed and the number of people calling the hotline a bit smaller.

“If a revision is implemented, maybe if you have a certain amount of tickets and then on your third ticket, it’s a misdemeanor,” Hensman said. “That might be an option, something to consider.”

According to the Oregon Judicial Department, out of those 2,413 citations, 219 people have multiple open Class E violations.

Holton explained another possible initiative from his and Hensman’s recent meeting with the OAC.

“We’ve had a suggestion from the Grants Pass Police Department,” Holton said. “Our thinking was, ‘Jeez maybe we can do follow-up calls to the people who are ticketed and encourage them to do the assessment.”

Josephine County has issued the most citations out of any other county in the state, however, Medford Police Chief Justin Ivens said the number the Oregon Judicial Department has on their website could represent a much smaller number than what was actually distributed.

Ivens explained that while Jackson County only has around 100 citations listed, he said his department had actually distributed around 300 since Measure 110 went into effect.

“Unfortunately, we had initially processed all those citations through the municipal court prior to the state requesting that all those citations be processed through the circuit court,” Ivens said.

Ivens also added that after multiple meetings with other police chiefs and sheriffs in the state, he’s heard many departments are unwilling to have officers write tickets, saying they think it's a waste of time.

Police chiefs like Ivan and Hensman however, argue that writing every citation is an important aspect of tracking the efficacy of Measure 110.

“We feel it's important to write these tickets and issue these citations because we want that data to be able to show that if Measure 110 is working great, if not we have the data to back that,” Ivens said.

Hensman said he and Holton are working to answer the “million-dollar question” about what changes can be made to the execution of Measure 110 that could help more people get drug treatment and recovery help.

“When we made the change away from the criminal justice system for Measure 110, the state did it for lots of really good reasons,” Holton said. “But the reality is, that the criminal justice system, as brutal as it is, was pretty effective at getting people connected up with treatment.”

Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert also echoed that sentiment. Heckert said the laws in effect immediately before Measure 110 didn't sentence minor drug possession with heavy prison time but instead, put the offender with a probation officer who guided them through treatment to get that charge expunged from their record.

“Now what we’re seeing is often people, their first crime which is their first touch which the criminal justice system is a much more serious crime,” Heckert said, elaborating that those charges are typically burglary and theft crimes.

In OnTrack Rogue Valley’s 50 years of experience treating drug addiction at three locations, the presence of external motivators is connected with more successful drug treatment outcomes. This is particularly true for people who don’t have protective factors in their life like nurturing parents, high self-esteem, grit, supportive community, academic competence, strong neighborhood attachment, etc.

Sommer Wolcott with OnTrack said external motivators don’t necessarily have to be prison time; an upcoming court hearing, custody issues, child welfare involvement, court-mandated counseling and supportive probation officers are all effective tools the organization correlates with successful drug treatment outcomes.

Wolcott said, based on OnTrack's experience, patients with an external motivator are typically 65-70% more likely to graduate from the program, while those with no external motivators and limited protective factors were only 10-15% likely to complete treatment.

Holton provided a silver lining about the success rate of Oregon’s Addiction Recovery Center hotline for the 111 people who have called since February of last year.

“Of the people who actually go through the assessment, more than 20 percent are interested in being connected to treatment and another pretty big chunk are already in treatment,” Holton said. “So for the people we reach, we are making progress getting people connected to treatment.”

Another shortfall highlighted by the Oregon Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission (ADPC) was that funding for Measure 110 went entirely to treatment and harm reduction but none of the funding was allocated to drug-use prevention.

“I don’t think so far where the money has gone has stayed true to the voters’ intent,” says Jill Gray, Senior Policy Analyst for ADPC. “From our perspective, we’re never going to be able to meaningfully impact and reduce our substance use rates without including prevention.”

Committee in charge says if we build it, people will come

Oversight and Accountability Council Tri-Chair Blue Valentine said the OAC has had to pivot a few times since Measure 110 went into effect and they realized early on that not very many people were calling the Lines for Life number.

“Now we don’t know if that’s because law enforcement didn’t give them the phone number to call,” Valentine said. “We didn’t know if that’s because we didn't have enough billboards with the phone number and people weren’t aware when they got a citation they could call that number to get the citation dropped.”

The one thing council did decide on at that point however, was there wouldn’t be just one door to seeking treatment. She said that success for Measure 110 would be having ample treatment service centers available and funded so that those who would like to seek services are able to.

Valentine said the other key is providing access to harm reduction services as well.

“We want to make sure people aren’t dying; we are in the middle of an overdose crisis,” Valentine said. “We’re also really trying to do all we can to make sure people can get Naloxone and Narcan and I think that’s just a huge piece is making sure people can access treatment.”

The OAC quantifies the success of Measure 110 not in compelling people to get treatment, but in making sure there are enough treatment organizations to serve people who want it.

“Treatment doesn’t really work very well if someone doesn’t want to change their behavior,” Valentine said. “It’s about recognizing that people have the right to do whatever they’re going to do with their bodies, but we are here if they want help. We want to make sure they can get help.”

She said that access to treatment across the state was extremely limited prior to Measure 110 despite the state having one of the highest overdose records in the country. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health released in December 2021 found that Oregon ranks worst in the nation for access to drug treatment, while taking second place behind Montana for substance abuse.

“The assumption would be that if you increase access, people will access it,” Valentine said.

The OAC’s sole responsibility is to oversee the implementation of the BHRNs in each county. Valentine said the council, however, doesn't have the ability to shift where funds are distributed or how the process works.

Any changes to Measure 110, like improving any shortfalls highlighted, would have to be changed through the legislature.

Valentine said the council is currently in the process of getting the next round of funds distributed to organizations and re-writing the applications for Measure 110 funding.

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