‘We need change’ — moms and others rally for better addiction treatment in Oregon

By Amelia Templeton (OPB)
Feb. 3, 2023 1:01 a.m.

More than 200 people from across Oregon met with legislators and rallied outside the state capitol yesterday to demand better addiction treatment.

Pam Connelly, from the tiny Columbia River town of Deer Island, held a sign with the name “Kyle” outlined in hearts, for her son who’d just reached 10 months of sobriety. “He’s my boy, he’s my purpose for being here. And he’s an amazing human being who has a disease,” she said. “I am so proud of him.”


Connolly, a member of the group Oregon Moms for Addiction Recovery, said too many people like her son are ready to get off drugs but can’t get into a detox or treatment program. “We need change. My son was ready for help multiple times — we couldn’t find it,” she said. One time, Connelly said, she called three different centers every morning for a month to try to find a place for her son. On another occasion, she stayed with him while he detoxed cold turkey.

“I laid on my son for three days while he shook uncontrollably — detoxing at home because he just was ready to be done and couldn’t get into any facilities,” she said.


For multiple years running, Oregon has reported among the highest rates of drug and alcohol addiction in the nation in surveys conducted annually by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It also ranks among the worst states in the nation for the percentage of people needing but not receiving treatment for alcohol and drug use.

Eric Spencer, a peer support specialist with the Pathfinder Network in Medford, said the state needs more funding for residential treatment programs and detox programs, which can take a month or more to get into. “A month is a year to people who are out on the streets using,” he said.

The lobby day was organized by the advocacy group Oregon Recovers. Among their priorities is passing a package of bills introduced by state representative Maxine Dexter, D-Portland, aimed at reducing opioid deaths.

The bills would decriminalize the distribution of fentanyl test strips and make it easier for first responders and businesses to stock and distribute naloxone, an overdose-reversing drug, to anyone who asks for it.

Oregon Recovers is also supporting Governor Tina Kotek’s 2023-2025 budget request, which includes $15 million for inpatient treatment and recovery community centers and $40 million to reduce deaths associated with opioid use.

The group opposes efforts to overturn Measure 110, the 2020 ballot measure that made Oregon the first state to decriminalize drug possession and is opposing HB 2089, which would reallocate some cannabis tax dollars toward counties, cities and state police.