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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 24 May 2006

Time is running out for Oregon to stem the "overwhelming" problem of alcohol and drug abuse, according to a government report.

The report, prepared by the Governor's Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs, provides an overview of alcohol and drug treatment programs in Oregon and recommendations for the 2007-2009 legislative session.

"The data show that time is running out for Oregon to act," said Council Chair Ann Uhler, of Tigard. "For example, foster care has increased by 45 percent over the past four years due to a huge increase in drug- and alcohol-related arrests."

The Governor's Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs was created in 1985 to assess, review and make recommendations to the governor and the Legislature on the goals, financing, priorities and a state plan for prevention, intervention and treatment of alcohol and drug abuse problems.

The report shows that access to treatment for alcohol and other drug abuse has declined significantly over the past four years.
"During that period, the Legislature reduced treatment services by at least $45 million," Uhler said.

The recommendations and data are included in what the council calls a "business plan" for rebuilding substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery. The recommendations include a 20 percent increase in publicly financed treatment, doubling state-financed prevention efforts to $4.5 million and a 15-percent increase in payments to treatment providers in the 2005-2007 biennium.

Among other recommendations in the report:

• Increase drug-free housing by at least 2,000 beds statewide. The council report says nearly 4,000 Oregon-ians need drug-free housing.

• Increase substance-abuse treatment for prison inmates and those who have been released by 20 percent. Oregon Department of Corrections says 66 percent of men and 80 percent of women have a history of alcohol and other drug abuse.

• Increase the number of state police officers. This is in response to data showing that 40 percent of 2003 traffic fatalities were related to alcohol or drug intoxication.

As a result of decreased public funding for treatment, the report says, public treatment access has been reduced by 18 percent in the last four years (2001-2002 to 2004-2005). The report says that, of the number of people needing publicly financed treatment for alcohol and drug abuse Oregon served 53 percent during 2004-2005. Four years ago, it was 71 percent.

"With the above reductions and 9.4 percent growth in state population," the report concludes, "we estimate that services need to be increased by at least 43 percent to meet the needs of those who are ready for treatment."

Initiating treatment when people are ready is considered an important element in treatment success.

Treatment programs have beenoverwhelmedby methamphetamine-related admissions, according to the report. For the past decade, Oregon has led the nation in the share of treatments associated with methamphetamine addiction.

Ulher said studies have shown that $1 devoted to treatment pays back $5 to $7 in reduced costs to support health care, emergency room visits, policing and the court system.

The full report is posted at http://egov.oregon.gov/DHS/addiction/publications/07-09businessplan.pdf on the Oregon Department of Human Services Web site.

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