The Multnomah County Board on Thursday, Dec. 16, approved a Health Department notice of intent to submit a grant application to the Oregon Health Authority for Measure 110 funds. The money will support emerging Behavioral Health Resource Networks and help staff the County’s new Behavioral Health Resource Center in downtown Portland, which is slated to open next year.
Voters passed Measure 110 in November 2020. The measure decriminalized personal possession of illegal drugs and redirected marijuana sales revenue into a new drug addiction treatment and recovery grant program. The Measure also established the Oversight and Accountability Council to approve and oversee grants for providers and services.
The Oversight and Accountability Council was to fund agencies or organizations to create “Addiction Recovery Centers.” These Centers would provide round the clock care for people who use drugs, and assess and provide for their ongoing needs. In July, the Oregon Legislature amended the Measure with Senate Bill 755. The bill changed requirements from one “Addiction Recovery Center” per coordinated care organization region to a minimum of one “Behavioral Health Resource Network” per county, with an understanding that larger counties will need more than a single Network.
A Behavioral Health Resource Network is an entity, or collection of entities, working together to fulfill certain service and staffing requirements. The Network must provide the following services: screening, behavioral health assessments, individual intervention planning and case management, ongoing peer counseling and support, outreach services, harm reduction services, low-barrier substance use disorder treatment, and transitional and supportive housing.
At least one group, composed of substance use disorder treatment nonprofits, peer organizations and other community providers has applied to the oversight council to offer that full continuum of care in Multnomah County. In its application, Multnomah County seeks to support all Networks that are approved to operate in the County.
The Health Department worked closely with other County departments and community partners to develop its proposal. Rather than apply for funds as a Network of its own, the County seeks to act as a “launch point.” The request will focus on increasing rapid access to substance use services and connecting people with appropriate services by reducing barriers.
The Measure seeks to narrow racial disparities that show people of color are more likely to be arrested, charged and convicted of drug offenses, even though data suggests people generally use drugs at similar rates. It also seeks to make substance use disorder treatment more accessible and culturally appropriate for people of color seeking treatment and support.
“In small counties, it might make sense for the county government itself to serve as the Network hub. But we wanted to honor the intention, to lift up the voice of the whole community. Specifically Black, Indigenous and other people of color,” Julie Dodge, interim director of the Behavioral Health Division, said Thursday. “To lift and honor that voice without the County stepping in and controlling. We are committed to collaborating and stepping away from some of those dominant culture hierarchical structures.”
Health Department Director Ebony Clarke agreed.
“This gives Multnomah County the opportunity to live out our values about centering the work of people with lived experience,” she said.
Of the $4.8 million requested, $2 million would go to support:
- Screening through the Multnomah County Call Center by certified alcohol drug counselors and Peers who also have culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
- A website that includes all substance use disorder treatment services and supports throughout Multnomah County.
- Increasing the distribution of harm reduction supplies including naloxone and fentanyl test strips.
- A partnership with Public Health and Corrections Health to ease an individual’s transition from jail to the community and help them access harm reduction services.
- Leadership and technical support for new initiatives, peer and BIPOC organizations and the Behavioral Health Emergency Coordination Network.
The remaining funds, about $2.8 million, will go to staff and support the Behavioral Health Resource Center, scheduled to open next year. The Center will provide shelter, a bridge to housing and connection to other health and social services for persons with a substance use disorder and severe mental illness who are homeless in downtown Portland.
“Thank you for the thoughtful way you put our values into action, engaging BIPOC communities and making sure people with lived experience have a big role,” said Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson. “The investments you have outlined really seem to serve that purpose. I appreciate the screenings and the website, giving people more doors and more options. And how important the downtown Behavioral Health Resource Center will be as a link in this system.”
Chair Deborah Kafoury reflected that the Measure 110 funding is a pivotal moment for Oregon with new treatment possibilities and improved coordination.
“A lot of people in this community have their hopes and dreams resting on this funding,” she said.
And if we need a reminder, Kafoury reflected on the words of Hope Yamasaki, the mother of a young man who died from methamphetamines last year, as he struggled to find treatment options that could address both his addiction and mental illness. He was one of 126 people who died while experiencing homelessness last year.
“When he was ready, and had the opportunity to do so, they couldn’t find him any help,” Kafoury said. “He had his mother who was willing to fight for him, and still couldn’t get the help that he needed. Unfortunately he eventually succumbed to his disease.”