Oregon's Governor Declares Addictions a Public Health Crisis

Gov. Kate Brown's executive order calls for a statewide strategy to combat addiction.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced she will declare a public health crisis in the state because of the growing prevalence and impact of addiction on Oregon families, their children, and their communities. Speaking at a Feb. 13 rally hosted by Oregon Recovers, Brown announced she will issue an executive order requiring state agencies whose programs address addiction to align their priorities around prevention, treatment, and recovery, thus creating a statewide strategy to fight this problem.

Brown noted that the costs of addiction are often borne by Oregon's children: Almost 60 percent of children in foster care have at least one parent with a substance abuse disorder, and more than half of the youths in the state's juvenile justice system enter with addiction issues or a dual diagnosis. Drug overdoses are killing more than 1,100 people in Oregon per year at the current pace.

"The ripple effects of addiction devastate families, preventing thousands of Oregonians all across the state from living healthy, productive lives," said Brown. "This crisis will only worsen without improving access to appropriate treatments, collecting data to drive our policies, and reducing stigma. Addiction is blind to circumstance, but is a root cause of other crises across the state, including foster care. To protect our most vulnerable, we must turn the tide on this treatable illness."

At the Rally for Recovery event, addicts in recovery and family members shared their experiences with drug addiction and its detrimental effects on their families. Brown said her new mandate will call on the Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission to reduce addictions by identifying the most effective avenues of treatment and opening up access to those treatments by increasing inter-agency cooperation and data-sharing. The commission also will submit funding requests to the governor to be included in her December budget for the 2019-2021 biennium.

One of the governor's bills for the current legislative session, HB4143, would require stronger regulation and support to address the opioid crisis.

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