Measure 110: Making the Miracle of Recovery Possible for People Across Oregon

Joan McGuire

Julia Mines, executive director of the Miracles Club, writes about Measure 110’s impact

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Miracles do happen. Let me tell you about just one of many.

Julia MinesSome time ago, a young man came to us looking for help. He was desperate to find a way out of the cunning, baffling and powerful cycle of addiction: that cycle where you want help, you want to change, but you don’t know how to do it on your own.

We surrounded him with love and support. He was able to find hope in seeing people who look just like him, and who share his culture and background. Seeing their example and having their support made him begin to believe it might be possible for him, too. We connected him with intensive outpatient treatment, which he completed successfully. He moved into one of our transitional houses, where he continued to work on his recovery with our certified peers and mentors. He was able to save money for his own apartment and build up his support network. Now, he lives in permanent housing and he has a good job, working for the Miracles Club to share his gift of recovery so that others may believe that recovery is possible for them, too. This young man’s story is a miracle. He is a miracle.

Measure 110 can make more miracles like this happen.

The Drug Addiction Treatment & Recovery Act, overwhelmingly voted into law in 2020 as Ballot Measure 110, decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs and redirected cannabis tax revenue above $90 million per biennium toward funding low-barrier addiction recovery and harm-reduction overdose-prevention services. It will invest $302 million into these services over the next two years, which is more than five times what Oregon currently spends on these services.

As I write this, money is being granted out to community providers, agencies and small businesses to pay for services and offer support that people need — not just to get off of drugs but to build meaningful, fulfilling lives. My organization received an Access to Care grant during the measure’s first funding cycle, and soon we will receive another grant that will enable us to further expand our peer-support services, mentoring and housing for people with substance-use disorder. Other 110 funds will be used to expand access to overdose-prevention services, housing, peer support, harm reduction and more across the state.

The influx of funds from Measure 110 will also help Oregon develop its behavioral-health workforce by creating stable employment opportunities at every level, including entry. It invests in small businesses across the state, giving them the resources they need to serve more clients and hire more people.

Measure 110 is the first step in repairing the ongoing, multigenerational harms of the war on drugs. It’s a landmark law drawn from global best practices — from decriminalization in Portugal and Switzerland to Eugene’s CAHOOTS model. Rather than branding drug users criminals, the law treats substance use as a public health issue affecting us all, from spouses and siblings to young children and teens, from pregnant women to grandparents. It makes critical care more accessible by removing barriers that all too often make it difficult for people to get help: lack of health insurance, not having the funds to pay or long wait times. Measure 110’s low‐barrier approach meets people where they are and provides an environment where they can be who they are — culturally and emotionally.

Oregon ranks second in the nation for substance-use disorder and 50th in access to treatment, making the need for Measure 110 services all the more urgent. Despite what you may have heard from naysayers, hard data taken directly from local police departments shows that there have been no increases in crime in Oregon since Measure 110 became law. Some crime indicators in Oregon even went down. There is also no data that shows a correlation between any increase in houselessness and Measure 110. Measure 110 creates more housing, opens more doors to care and ultimately makes recovery more attainable.

We can’t arrest our way out of this public health crisis; we tried that for over 50 years. The result? More people are addicted and incarcerated than ever before. We tried solving this problem through a criminal-justice lens, and that has only made the problem worse. Oregon voters recognized that it was time to start doing what addiction-medicine experts have long advised: Make addiction-recovery services available to more people in the most low-barrier, equitable way possible. In doing so, more people will get help and we will further destigmatize addiction and recovery.

This transformational new law is just getting off the ground; $265 million is being released right now on a rolling basis to form Behavioral Health Resource Networks, a system of connected providers in each Oregon county, whose services complement one another to increase access to a full array of care in each county. Multnomah County will receive nearly $59 million to fund these services over the next 18 months; Deschutes County will receive over $11.9 million, Josephine County more than $10.7 million and Lane County nearly $29 million. (You can see the county breakdown on the Oregon Health Authority’s website.) These dollars will save lives, heal families, support our communities and create jobs for Oregonians. Once fully implemented, our compassionate and science-backed approach to substance use will be a guiding light to address failed drug policy nationwide. Thanks to Measure 110, there is hope on the horizon.

Julia Mines is the executive director of the Miracles Club, a nonprofit providing peer services and support.