PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As Oregon grapples with a drug addiction crisis, Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole is calling for more action from lawmakers, saying he supports the intent behind Measure 110, but says it’s having a negative impact on the city.
Passed in 2020, Measure 110 decriminalized small amounts of certain drugs and aimed to make addiction treatment more accessible.
“Frankly, it’s been a negative impact with Measure 110. What we’ve seen — and this isn’t a study by no means, this is just fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in Rainier – what we’ve seen is an increase of course of small amounts of drugs. It’s almost like the drug users are saying, ‘Hey, I could get away with this.” It’s a misdemeanor charge when they do get caught with it so it’s like no big deal to them,” Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole told KOIN 6 News.
“I think we all had big hopes for Measure 110, but frankly, it’s not working,” Cole added.
“Salem needs to do something; we need to do something. It definitely needs to be tweaked. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the intent of it to get people off drugs, to get them help and I want that, but frankly 110 isn’t working period,” Cole furthered.
While the mayor says drug treatment options are available, he adds, “what I’m running into, just talking to my colleagues, is would you rather go to treatment, or would you rather have a misdemeanor charge? Most of the folks are saying ‘I’ll just take that misdemeanor, it’s no big deal. I’m not going to go to treatment.’ So, something on that end needs to be fixed too.”
According to the mayor, the city has seen an uptick in crime, but notes Rainier is “still pretty lucky in that aspect.”
“One of the things that people don’t think about, that has an impact, is our public works. When they clean the bathroom, it’s littered with paraphernalia of drug needles and that kind of stuff,” Cole added.
Lawmakers are taking another swing at the administration of Measure 110 after funding has been slow to roll out.
A bill introduced in the Oregon legislature in late March, HB 2513, is intended to make the process more efficient.
Bill sponsor Democratic Rep. Rob Nosse says they had been bogged down from treatment strategies with having to deal with grant applications, request for proposals, and other processes he argues they don’t have the expertise.
One change would be giving that responsibility to the Oregon Health Authority.
Another change could mean counties would not need their own resource hotline, and instead would centralize one line for the entire state. It would also remove the 4% cap on administrative costs that representative Nosse says are arbitrary.
Nosse was questioned by Rep. Lilly Morgan if removing that cap would mean less money for treatment and recovery.
“Removing that admin barrier is just to make it so that the operations are going to be a little bit easier to accomplish the goals that voters asked us to do to have more treatment, more services available and to do it in a way that’s timely,” Nosse said.
Rep. Morgan, a Republican from Grants Pass, has sponsored several bills to repeal Measure 110 but tells KOIN 6 she will support the bill HB 2513 with these potential fixes and shoring up treatment services across the state before funding “peripheral programs.”
“This bill is more in line with what voters thought they were voting for.” Morgan said.