More than 50 people gathered in the Hope Community Center in Klamath Falls Thursday for a community briefing hosted by Oregon Recovers, a Portland-based coalition with the goal of transforming Oregon’s addiction recovery system.
Rayleen McMillan, Oregon Recovers’ Movement Building Director, spoke at the event.
“There is no comprehensive, statewide strategic plan for addressing the addiction crisis,” McMillan said. “There is no clear point of accountability of authority for drug and alcohol policy in Oregon.”
McMillan said that Oregon ranks 50th in the United States in access to addiction treatment, and that more than 2,100 Oregonians die each year from drugs and alcohol. She said that part of Oregon Recovers’ mission is to end the stigma behind addiction that contributes to a lack of care.
“We need to treat addiction as a public health concern, not a criminal justice problem,” she said.
McMillan said that she was approached by people from the recovery community in Klamath Falls at other events throughout the state who encouraged Oregon Recovers to help organize a movement in the area.
Though the organization is based in Portland, it has expanded to hold events and meet with people statewide, including in Eugene, Bend and Medford.
“We do direct, local government advocacy in Jackson County,” McMillan said. “There have been folks from Klamath that show up in Jackson County, they made the trip to engage with us.”
She said that the recovery community in Klamath Falls has been very engaged and enthusiastic about bringing more resources to people in the region.
“The community has shown itself to be absolutely devoted to issues with recovery,” McMillan said. “This was one of the larger turnouts for an initial meeting like this.”
Jace Ahboah, the director of Related in Recovery, a Klamath Falls-based non-profit organization that hosts sober recovery events, said that it is important to treat addiction in a way that helps people stay sober.
“This is what we need in our community,” Ahboah said at the meeting. “Aftercare, aftermath. This is what we’ve been talking about.”
McMillan talked about the importance of continued treatment as well, saying that people who engage in recovery treatment for five years have only a 15% chance of relapse.
“Addiction is treated as an acute problem or a moral failing instead of a chronic disease,” she said. “We recognize addiction as a chronic disease requiring a lifetime of recovery.”
McMillan said because of the enthusiasm from people in Klamath Falls, Oregon Recovers is excited about continued engagement in the area.
She said that she thinks they should find a Klamath Falls representative to join their board as they continue to expand, and that she will be making concrete efforts to help with change in the area by continuing to talk to local recovery advocates.
“We will be back in October for direct organizing work, but I don’t want to wait until then to get started,” McMillan said. “The Klamath Falls meeting really stood out as an enormous highlight.”