Portland/ Politics & Govt
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Published on May 25, 2024
Oregon's Washington County Launches Deflection Program for Substance Abuse CasesSource: Google Street View

In a move that pivots from punishment to treatment, Washington County is prepping to launch a fresh deflection program mandated by new Oregon legislation. The program aims to tackle substance abuse by diverting offenders towards recovery rather than the courtroom. Set in motion by Oregon Governor Tina Kotek's April signing of House Bill 4002, which revises the state's Measure 110 and boosts substance abuse treatment funds, the program is slated for activation come September 1.

Data-driven and humanity-focused, Washington County’s Deflection Planning and Implementation Work Group is laying the groundwork for a strategy poised to shake up the handling of small drug possession cases. According to official statements by Washington County Oregon, the new deflection program will employ a gamut of services including peer support and case management aimed at fostering a healthier community and decreasing drug-related hazards. Board Chair Kathryn Harrington expressed her enthusiasm, "This is an exciting opportunity to align new resources with a range of existing services that can address the underlying causes of substance use disorder, deflect people away from entering the criminal justice system and most importantly, save lives."

The innovative program strategically intertwines law enforcement work with behavioral health initiatives—offering a promising conduit for change. Each installment of this diversionary approach will necessitate cooperation with a roster of community partners, namely the district attorney, law enforcement agencies, the community mental health program (CMHP), and a local Behavioral Health Resource Network (BHRN) rep.

This overhaul in policy comes as the nation grapples with rampant drug epidemics, placing Oregon at the forefront of a more compassionate, and potentially more effective, method of addressing substance use disorders. By splintering the cycle that historically shuffles drug possessors from street to cell, Oregon's push towards treatment over incarceration may turn the tide in the ongoing war against drugs' deadliest consequences.