On Overdose Awareness Day, Oregon’s death rate is rising
Oregon’s death rate far exceeds the national increase, and experts say the pandemic is making it worse
Oregon’s overdose death rate rose 13.5 percent in the last year, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control, with an average of nearly two people dying every day.
Overdose touched every corner of Oregon, according to more granular data from the Oregon Health Authority, with especially high rates in Tillamook, Josephine, Curry, Multnomah and Lake counties. Oregon ranks nearly last in the country in access to drug addiction treatment, according to the federal government.
Oregon Overdose Deaths, 2014-2018
Oregon Health Authority
The news comes as communities in Oregon and across the globe are observing International Overdose Awareness Day to reduce the stigma of a drug-related death and remember those who have died as a result of drug overdose.
“I’m worried about my patients,” said Dr. Jessica Gregg, an Addiction Medicine Specialist at a Portland-area hospital. “Everyone is struggling, even people who still have a job, a home, and a good support network. Imagine enduring our distressing current reality while also struggling with addiction. For many people, it’s too much. COVID-19 is putting already vulnerable communities more at risk for suicide, overdose and relapse. Measure 110 is urgently needed to make vital support services more available.”
Measure 110 seeks to establish a more humane and effective approach to drug addiction. Under Measure 110, funding for drug treatment and recovery services will increase across the state, while penalties from simple drug possession will go from misdemeanors to civil infractions. Existing marijuana taxes would help pay for it. Measure 110 does not legalize any drugs.
“It’s very difficult—if not impossible—for someone to be successful in treatment and find long term recovery if they don’t have a safe place to lay their head at night,” said Richard Harris, founder of Central City Concern and retired director of Mental Health and Addiction for the State of Oregon. “Housing is essential when navigating how to get people to recovery and keeping them engaged.”
Measure 110 will not only increase access to these services for individuals who receive a civil infraction for simple drug possession; anyone who wants services will be able to get them on-demand, including individuals without insurance or funds to pay for treatment.
“For all of us working on Measure 110, this issue is personal. Most Oregonians know someone who has been deeply impacted by addiction,” said Campaign Manager, Peter Zuckerman. “From nearly the worst in access to treatment, Measure 110 will make Oregon the first state to expand services, paying for them with marijuana tax revenue, and reducing criminal penalties for possession. This measure will save lives.”
Racial and ethnic impact of Measure 110
Earlier this month the Secretary of State released a report on behalf of the Criminal Justice Commission showing that Measure 110 would nearly eliminate racial disparities for drug arrests and convictions.