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Oregon Drug Decriminalization Still Faces Spending Challenges

Funding for drug treatment centers in Oregon, financed by the state’s drug decriminalization policy, stood at over a quarter-billion dollars Friday as officials called for closer monitoring of where the money goes. The need for oversight was demonstrated when state officials terminated a $1.5 million grant for a drug recovery nonprofit in Klamath Falls accused of failing to submit completed expenditure and data reports and buying a building for more than double the authorized amount, the Associated Press reports. Some $264.6 million has been allocated for recovery centers, and state officials have a responsibility to ensure the money does what it is supposed to: combatting drug use in a state with one of the nation’s highest addiction rates.

Oregon’s drug decriminalization had a rocky start after voters approved it in 2020. Only a tiny number of people have accessed treatment after being ticketed for possessing drugs, and funding to treatment providers was delayed. As of Friday, $184 million has been handed out to behavioral health resource networks, or BHRNs, in a state of 4.2 million. The Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Council, responsible for overseeing addiction and recovery centers and the funds to support them, needs more staff. The Oregon Health Authority needs more leverage to address bureaucratic and administrative barriers to oversight.

A bill to do that remains stuck in the Senate, along with 100 other bills, because of a walkout by Republican senators that began on May 3 seeking to block Democratic initiatives on abortion rights, transgender care and gun safety. Oregon’s 2020 ballot measure marked the first time a U.S. state decriminalized hard drugs.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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