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Published on February 23, 2024
Oregon Lawmakers Propose Increased Funding for Opioid Treatment in Jails Amid Fentanyl CrisisSource: Wikipedia/Guian Bolisay, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the wake of an acute fentanyl crisis gripping Oregon, lawmakers are taking decisive steps to offer beleaguered jails some relief by proposing increased funding for opioid addiction treatment medications. The urgency of this initiative is underscored by the harrowing story of Kendra Sawyer, a 22-year-old inmate who, after a wrenching battle with opioid withdrawal in the Deschutes County jail, ended her own painful struggle mere hours after telling her father she loved him, as reported by AP News.

This legislation comes as a crucial debate heats up over the future of Measure 110, Oregon's pioneering drug decriminalization law, which if rolled back could lead to more inmates facing opioid addiction challenges similar to those Kendra faced, yet in a contradictory turn, some lawmakers are pushing for more aid, from both sides of the political aisle they are indeed pushing for more funding for treatments necessary to combat addiction within the penal system. Kent Sawyer, the grieving father, lamented the lack of care his daughter received, telling ABC News, “Kendra was screaming in pain and crying for hours and hours, and nobody was doing anything,” and emphasized, “No one truly deserves to die in a painful way.”

The measure that aimed at decriminalization and was passed in 2020, is now scrutinized under the pressure of a fentanyl crisis that's fueling a surge in overdose deaths, leading to bipartisan agreement on the urgency of reform during this year's legislative session, according to a report by KATU News. The legislative push signifies a shared recognition of the need to address a problem that extends far beyond prison walls, stretching into the very fabric of communities ravaged by addiction.