New Resource: Opioid Settlement Funds: State-Level Guides for Community Advocates. Intended for a community audience, these guides demystify how each state will receive and allocate opioid settlement funds.
Two Years in, $302 Million Generated for Services and Treatment, Lessons Learned from Complex Implementation
New Research Report on Oregon’s Drug Decriminalization Law
Portland, Oregon – Two years ago, on February 1st, Oregon began implementing the Drug Addiction Treatment Recovery Act (DATRA, commonly called Measure 110) and became the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize small amounts of drugs for personal use. Comagine Health, a national nonprofit health care consulting firm, has partnered with Vital Strategies, a global public health organization, to conduct an implementation evaluation and share recommendations and lessons learned from the early implementation of DATRA, to inform efforts in other states considering decriminalization.
The report by Comagine Health, Oregon Decriminalizes Drugs: A State-level Process Evaluation of Early Implementation, is available at drugdecrimoregon.org. The website includes information about DATRA and what it aimed to accomplish, a description of how DATRA proposes to support people who use drugs, and a timeline of process actions to date. Comagine Health evaluated and shared lessons from implementing three key components of the law:
- Decriminalizing personal possession, which prevented arrests that disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous, and persons of color in Oregon. In lieu of arrests, Oregon implemented a low-fine Class E violation.
- Expanding funding for services for people who use drugs with the allocation of $302 million from marijuana tax revenue to county-level organizations and tribal partners. These funds supported new and expanded low-barrier substance use disorder treatment, supportive housing, comprehensive behavioral health needs assessments, case management, peer counseling and support, and harm reduction, and linkages to other services.
- Leading governance processes with a community advisory council that includes people most impacted by the harms of the war on drugs.
The report draws from an 18-month process evaluation which began soon after DATRA went into effect. The research team surveyed and interviewed key decision makers from Oregon involved in policymaking, governing, and the criminal legal system about implementing the law. Additionally, Comagine Health archived and analyzed public documents and meetings related to the law’s implementation during these first two years. The study focuses on how the law has been put into place, and does not address the impacts of DATRA. The report lays essential groundwork for researchers studying the law’s effects over time.
“Oregon has taken crucial action to address the harms of drug criminalization and interrupt the chronic underfunding of services for people who use drugs, said Christi Hildebran, Research and Evaluation Vice President Comagine. “The research team hopes the report’s focus on feedback from knowledgeable stakeholders about the challenges Oregon faced implementing DATRA can help inform other states considering decriminalization.”
Participants in the study expressed hope for the future of DATRA while acknowledging the complexity of the implementation process. Participants noted that implementation difficulties were fixable, and changes could be made to improve processes going forward. Oregon is the first state to decriminalize personal possession and implement such significant systems change. They encouraged other states to consider Oregon as a resource for implementing drug decriminalization. In the words of a contributor, “we are here, as a state, as a resource to other states decriminalizing.”
“In the midst of the still-escalating national overdose crisis, Oregon has taken a bold and important step by ending the criminalization of people for drug use, potentially averting more than 7,000 arrests in the past two years, and investing instead in harm reduction and supportive services,” said Daliah Heller, Vice President of Drug Use Initiatives at Vital Strategies. “Learning from the successes and challenges of this effort is critical to informing similar developments, as other states and municipalities will follow in Oregon’s footsteps.”
In July 2021, Comagine Health received funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to conduct a process evaluation of the implementation of DATRA and enlisted Vital Strategies to support this effort. Through interviews, a survey of informed stakeholders, and document analysis, the Comagineevaluation illustrates Oregon’s approach to the three main components of the law, decriminalization, service expansion, and leading with a community advisory council. The report provides recommendations to other states considering decriminalization. Read it here.
About Comagine Health
Comagine Health, works collaboratively with patients, providers, payers and other stakeholders to reimagine, redesign and implement sustainable improvements in the healthcare system. As a trusted, neutral party, we work in our communities to address key, complex health and health care delivery problems. In all our engagements and initiatives, we draw upon our expertise in quality improvement, care management, health information technology, analytics and research. We invite our partners and communities to work with us to improve health and redesign the healthcare delivery system. For more information, please visit comagine.org.
Comagine Health’s research and evaluation team began in 2012 with a mission to bridge the research-to-practice gap by implementing applied health and human services studies designed to inform program, community, and policy improvements. The team collaborates with academic institutions, government, and nonprofit partners on initiatives funded by NIH, CDC, AHRQ, BJA, SAMHSA, and other funders. The work focuses on substance use treatment and recovery initiatives, prescribing practices, harm reduction interventions, initiatives to promote community health and equity, and the development and testing of tools for professionals and patients.
For more information about Comagine Health’s Research and Evaluation team, please visit http://www.comagine.org/service/research-evaluation
About Vital Strategies
Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by equitable and effective public health systems. We partner with governments, communities and organizations to reimagine public health, and the result is millions of people living longer, healthier lives. Our overdose prevention program works in the United States to strengthen and scale up evidence-based, data-driven policies and interventions, to reduce the risks for overdose and save lives.Learn more at https://www.vitalstrategies.org/programs/overdose-prevention/