New Website Details Implementation of Nation’s First Complete Drug Decriminalization Law in Oregon
Site Will Host Evaluation of Novel Effort to Implement $264M Expansion in Harm Reduction and Supportive Services
Portland, Oregon – In November 2020, Oregon made history with a voter-initiated ballot, Measure 110, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (DATRA), becoming the first state in the country to decriminalize the personal, non-commercial possession of drugs.
Comagine Health, a national nonprofit health care consulting firm, has partnered with Vital Strategies, a global public health organization, to conduct a process evaluation of DATRA.The first step of this project includes a new website, drugdecrimoregon.org, that explains the complex implementation process of DATRA. The website includes information about DATRA and what it aims to accomplish, a description of how DATRA proposes to support people who use drugs, and a timeline of implementation events to date. By the end of the year, this website will also host a report from Comagine Health, illustrating how decriminalization is being implemented, including dissemination of $264 million towards services for people who use drugs.
“Oregon is showing national leadership in its broad and intentional effort to respond to drug use as a health issue instead of as a criminal issue,” Marc Bennett, Comagine Health’s president and chief executive officer, said. “This evaluation will be critical to inform future policies affecting the health and quality of life of our community members. We’re excited to support this important work.”
The public ballot measure approving DATRA included two major components, one involving policy and one involving funding and services implementation. The first – to remove felony or misdemeanor penalties for the personal possession of drugs and lessen these to a civil infraction with $100 fine instead – was implemented in February 2021. With this decriminalization, thousands of people in Oregon have already been spared arrest and time behind bars.
The second component of DATRA – to create new services for people who use drugs by distributing marijuana tax revenue to service networks – is still underway. The Oversight and Accountability Council, a community-led council formed to oversee the distribution of funds, made its final county level award decision on September 2, concluding the distribution process for $264.3 million in funding to implement Behavioral Health Resource Networks (BHRNs). BHRNs will provide expansive substance use-related services, including screening for acute needs, comprehensive behavioral health needs assessments, individual intervention planning, case management, peer counseling and support, community outreach, low-barrier substance use disorder treatment, housing services, harm reduction services, and linkages to other services.
“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, and investing instead in harm reduction and supportive services,” said Daliah Heller, Vice President of Drug Use Initiatives at Vital Strategies. “Evaluating the successes and challenges of this effort will be critical to informing similar developments, as other states and municipalities follow in Oregon’s footsteps.”
Background: 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. The Comagine evaluation will illustrate Oregon’s approach to the two main components of the law, policy change and services implementation, and provide recommendations to other states considering decriminalization. The report, Oregon Decriminalizes Drugs: A State-level Process Evaluation of Early Implementation, is anticipated for release in December 2022 at www.drugdecrimoregon.org.
About Comagine Health
Comagine Health, works collaboratively with patients, providers, payers and other stakeholders to reimagine, redesign and implement sustainable improvements in the health care 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 health care 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 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 here.
Vital Strategies: Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Comagine Health: Meredith Mortensen at email@example.com