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‘We need all hands on deck’: C.O. outreach programs, law enforcement to join forces as part of Measure 110 reforms

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Central Oregon law enforcement and drug outreach programs say they're preparing for a big change in drug criminalization as a new state law takes effect this fall, aimed at curbing a surge in deadly overdoses.

On Monday, Governor Tina Kotek signed HB 4002 into law, partially recriminalizing personal-possession drug offenses that were decriminalized under controversial, voter-approved Measure 110. The changes go into effect Sept. 1, rolling back the decriminalization of small amounts of hard drugs. 

The idea is to bring law enforcement back into drug rehabilitation -- something that BestCare Treatment Services CEO Rick Treleaven says is necessary, especially in Deschutes County.

"People are dying at levels we've never seen in the United States," Treleaven said Thursday. "We need all hands on deck. We need both law enforcement, and we need outreach -- both at the same time. That's actually the model that we're discussing in the deflection programs."

Those new deflection programs will allow those arrested to choose treatment programs, instead of jail time. They could face up to 180 days in custody if deflection isn't chosen.

Deschutes County District Attorney Steve Gunnels told NewsChannel 21 on Thursday that he believes the intervention can be the first step in helping individuals with recovery, who might otherwise go down a dangerous path.

The fentanyl crisis has hit the West Coast hard since Measure 110 was approved by voters in 2020. It made small amounts of possession of drugs like heroin and cocaine only punishable with a $100 fine or a ticket.

According to Deschutes County Health Services, the county averages about 2.5 drug overdoses a month, and the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission expects around 1,333 new convictions every year, after September. 

Treleaven says his program has tripled in size, due to Measure 110's treatment aspects, and he expects even bigger growth when the new reforms go into effect.

"The outreach has actually been a success. But the impact of fentanyl and homelessness has overwhelmed our ability to really reduce numbers," Treleaven said. "But, our ability to bring people and engage them, get their lives moving in a different direction has definitely been there."

Gunnels says local law enforcement also will see an increase in officers.

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts

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Isabella Warren

Isabella Warren is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Isabellahere.


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