Press Release: Multnomah County Awarded $1.2 Million To Reduce Opioid Misuse

The United States Bureau of Justice Assistance has awarded Multnomah County a $1.2 million three-year grant to speed long-term recovery from opioid misuse among people in the criminal justice system. The $400,000-a-year grant allocation will support corrections counselors and peer navigators at the jail plus provide the resources critical to success such as transportation and recovery housing.

The federal grant, issued under the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, is designed to help local governments identify, respond and treat people affected by the opioid epidemic. The funding leverages a pilot, currently underway, that provides screening and referral by a corrections counselor at the Multnomah County Detention Center at booking, as well as peer recovery mentor services.

“The opioid epidemic defies trivial solutions,’’ said Dr. Paul Lewis, the Tri-County Health Officer and Principal Investigator.  “This funding demands a coordinated effort between the Sheriff, Corrections Health, the Department of Community Justice, and our many partners in the peer mentor, social service and evidence-based recovery community.”

Multnomah County has led the region in adopting comprehensive policy, legislative and practical approaches to combat the opioid epidemic, including launching the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program to reduce future criminal behavior for people involved in low-level drug offenses; developing County-wide prescribing policies, expanding the legal use of the overdose rescue drug Naloxone, operating robust harm reduction strategies such as syringe exchange, and holding a Tri-County Opioid Summit in 2018 to improve collaboration.

One of the key themes that emerged from the Opioid Summit was enhancing partnerships between public safety and public health officials to tackle the ongoing crisis. 

“This grant could not have been obtained and will not succeed without the generous collaboration, insight and support of Sheriff Mike Reese, District Attorney Rod Underhill, Multnomah Circuit Court Judges, and the Multnomah County Health Department, not to mention the community partners that touch those suffering from opioid dependence,’’ said County Chair Deborah Kafoury. “This critical grant will provide people living with an addiction the chance to engage with peers and get resources they need to get their lives on track.” 

The grant adds to the many current Multnomah County Health Department efforts, as well as a new collaboration with hospitals supported by Oregon House Bill 4143. That bill directs pilot projects to employ peer recovery mentors to link opioid users with medical complications to immediate access to medication-assisted recovery treatment.

The current pilot was developed with state funding from HB 4143 and a targeted investment by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.

“The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office is committed to innovative solutions that connect people to life-saving recovery resources,” Sheriff Mike Reese said.  “By increasing access to treatment, we’re hoping to interrupt the cycle that returns people with substance use disorder to jail over and over again, curbing not only incarceration, but recidivism.”

Health officials expect the implementation to begin by July, 1 2020.

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