PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In an ongoing effort to boost the number of people who get drug and alcohol treatment, the Multnomah County declared September to be Recovery Month.
Drug addiction is considered a public health crisis in both Portland and Multnomah County.
For years, Multnomah County has treated opioids and substance abuse as a public health emergency. They’ve gotten health care providers and hospital systems to change the way they prescribe drugs, worked to change state law to make Naloxone available, and sued manufacturers and distributors of opioids in 2017.
Officials said Oregon experiences about 5 drug overdose deaths a week and untreated addiction costs the state nearly $6 billion a year.
Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commissioners are calling on state and federal lawmakers to help.
According to Oregon Recovers, the state ranks 50th in access to addiction treatment.
“It’s crazy. People are waiting 2-3 weeks to get into treatment, which is ridiculous,” said Mike Marshall with Oregon Recovers. “We don’t do that with heart patients. We don’t do that with diabetes patients.”
The Portland Recovery Walk is set for 10 a.m. on September 28. One goal is to call on Governor Kate Brown to develop a comprehensive, statewide addiction recovery plan.
Stories of recovery
David grew up in an abusive household, later turning to drugs and alcohol to quiet painful thoughts.
“Growing up I had a lot of feelings of inadequacy, not fitting in,” he said. “In reality, I was choosing that over everything else — and I didn’t really understand that until I got sober.”
After 38 years, a divorce, jail and other loss, David admitted the way he was living wasn’t working and he asked for help and got into addiction treatment.
“It’s scary to sort of let down your crutches and try and walk for the first time, but it’s definitely worth it,” he said.
By building a network of people to support him in recovery and establishing therapists and his newfound faith, David developed better coping mechanisms for when times get tough.
“I realized it’s OK to feel lonely — it’s OK to feel sad,” David said. “Sometimes life is just that way, but it’s also nice because I get to feel joy and hope more authentically.”
David has been sober for nearly 16 months.
Sarah also had an abusive relationship with substances after she started drinking as a teenager. There were consequences along the way, but none that forced her to change.
“I brushed it off as being young and trying new things and experimenting,” she said.
She had a hard time admitting to her alcoholism because she was able to keep up a facade.
“I still had the car the job and the husband, I had just lost everything inside of me,” Sarah said.
After getting into inpatient treatment, 4 years later, Sarah is sober and living happy and healthy.
“My life is worth living now, and it wasn’t worth living before,” she said.
David and Sarah both say if you’re struggling with substances, they are proof there’s hope.
“If you can’t imagine living life another day the way that you’re living it,” Sarah said. “There is change and it is possible.”
Oregon Recovers is holding a Walk for Recovery on Saturday, Sept. 28 at Shemanski Park.