Innovative Pilot Program In Portland Enhances Collaboration Between Police And Drug Treatment Providers

A partnership between police and public health workers in downtown Portland is looking to revolutionize the way drug treatment is accessed. The program aims to bridge the gap between individuals struggling with substance abuse and the critical support they need. With the backing of government funding and dedicated office space, this pilot program is set to make a significant impact on the lives of those affected by addiction.

The pilot program, which commenced in December, brings together officers from the Portland Police Bureau’s bike squad and Oregon State Police, along with treatment providers in the city’s Old Town neighborhood. The primary objective is to establish a more direct and immediate avenue for individuals seeking drug treatment. By working collaboratively, the police and treatment providers hope to streamline the process and remove barriers that hindered access to treatment in the past.

Under Oregon’s drug decriminalization law, known as Ballot Measure 110, individuals caught using drugs were issued $100 citations. Instead of paying the fine, they were encouraged to contact a state-run hotline for assessment of substance use disorders. However, the previous system proved impractical for those actively using substances such as fentanyl and methamphetamine. Recognizing these challenges, the pilot program enables police to issue Measure 110 tickets while simultaneously offering an immediate opportunity to connect with a treatment provider. This approach ensures that individuals receive the support they need promptly.

Since the program’s inception, police and treatment workers have made significant strides in engaging with the community. Devon Downeysmith, representing the Health Justice Recovery Alliance, reports that more than 150 people have been connected with treatment services in just ten days. These encouraging numbers highlight the effectiveness of the collaborative efforts and demonstrate the program’s potential to make a substantial difference in addressing the drug crisis.

To sustain this vital initiative, the program has received funding amounting to $683,000 for its first year. The financial support originates from the city of Portland, Multnomah County, and the state. The allocation covers various essential aspects, including the lease for office space at Mercy Corp, a vehicle, and five staff members. Among the team are four dedicated outreach specialists who actively engage with individuals on the streets, forging connections and facilitating access to treatment.