Editor’s note: A previous version of this story described the Miracles Club as a substance abuse treatment provider, when it is a non-profit providing peer services and support. We regret the error.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Nearing the 18-month mark since voters approved Measure 110, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office said there are several “risks” putting the success of the addiction treatment and recovery phase of the program at risk.

While Measure 110 decriminalized small amounts of nearly all drugs, it also allocated $300 million every two years from the state’s Marijuana Tax Fund to fund addiction treatment, recovery and services across Oregon. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s office confirmed what several stakeholders observed — the money has been slow to be awarded to treatment providers.

“When the voters of Oregon passed Measure 110, we did so because we wanted to change a policy in Oregon to improve the lives of people, to improve communities,” Fagan said in a presentation to lawmakers on Thursday. “In the years since, we haven’t seen that play out.”

Fagan’s office found several problem areas, based on the complexity of the program and the process in which the grants are awarded.

Measure 110 laid out criteria for funding to be approved, such as individual intervention planning, harm reduction, housing services and several others. In order to meet all requirements, treatment providers team up with other providers in their area to create Behavioral Health Resource Networks (BRHNs) that then apply for funding, and award it to the organizations within.

The funding is also not based on population, but rather on need. A formula that takes an area’s Medicaid population, prevalence of homelessness, arrests and drug overdose deaths to prioritize where the money is needed most.

“When you look at Measure 110, you have to understand Measure 110 came about to assist those who were most impacted by the war on drugs,” Julia Mines explained. Mines is the executive director of Miracles Club, a non-profit organization providing peer services and support with a focus on African American communities.

Mines’ organization was able to get in on the first round of funding. She said the grant helped her bring on staff to support new treatment initiatives.

The next round of funding has since been delayed five times — first in late December 2021, then again in February, twice in March, again in May and now finally, the Oversight and Accountability Council (OAC) said the money will be fully awarded by October of this year.

“We applied for the money because we’re trying to help people live,” Mines said. “Fentanyl is real, drug addiction is real. People are dying.”

A recent audit says there are several problems leading to the slow release of funding for some drug treatment centers like Miracles Central in Portland. June 6, 2022. (KOIN)

Miracles Club secured some money in the initial round of funding that Mines said has gone to hiring two part-time positions and two full-time positions. The full-time employees were intended to help expand the organization’s treatment capacity, but Mines said they can’t offer more recovery programs without more grant money.

Mines also wants to move forward on a six-bed shelter dedicated for Black women, a segment of the population she says does not receive adequate addiction care in Portland.

The letter from Fagan’s office found that a lack of resources and understaffing has led to the lion’s share of delays so far.

The OAC is under the Oregon Health Authority and announced at the end of last week five additional networks have been approved and can begin negotiating contracts, after which the money will finally be given. The announcement is a sign the OAC is finally awarding contracts, and in the meeting last week, expects four or more networks to be approved each week.

OHA Behavioral Health Director Steve Allen told legislators during the meeting they acknowledge what went wrong.

“If we were to do it all over again, I would have asked for many more staff, much quicker in the process,” Allen said. “We were under-resourced to be able to support this effort, underestimated the work that was involved in supporting something that looked like this and partly, we didn’t fully understand it until we were in the middle of it. That really undermined our ability to fully support this effort.”