PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Health Authority announced the funding timeline for the Behavioral Health Resource Network has been extended to give the evaluation subcommittee and Oversight and Accountability Council members enough time to review the large number of grant applications submitted.
The new funding is part of Measure 110, passed by Oregon voters in November 2020, which essentially decriminalized user possession of hard drugs like heroin, cocaine and meth, and funded new behavioral health networks.
In November of 2021, the Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Council announced plans to distribute $270 million in grants to drug and addiction treatment service organizations.
OHA had previously extended the initial application deadline from Dec. 9, 2021, to Dec. 16, 2021, to allow organizations more time to submit their applications.
“This extension proved effective and we now have more than 400 applications to review.,” OHA stated in an announcement Tuesday. “While this is encouraging, it will also take more time to fairly review and evaluate applications.”
While the applications are in under review, the council is still in the process of establishing rules to clarify the criteria used to distribute grants for the Behavioral Health Resource Networks.
The council and OHA held a public comment Tuesday to hear feedback on the chapter 944 rules, which temporarily went into effect Sep. 1, 2021 and are set to expire Feb. 27, 2022.
Based on the public comment provided by members of Central City Concern, PCC Clear Clinic, Bridgeway Recovery Services, and Arbor House Portland the majority concerns surrounded the lack of clarity for funding record expungement services.
“There’s a requirement in the measure and the grant application to make referrals for expungement services, but there is not a clear indication that expungement services are fundable by measure 110.” stated Public Policy Director for Central City Concern, Mercedes Elizalde. “I think it would be inappropriate to create a mandate on a separate service, without also creating a support mechanism for those services.”
Expungement attorney with PCC Clear Clinic, Emilie Junge told the council by the end of the month, the primarily volunteer based operation will have over 1,000 intakes of people wanting criminal record expungements.
“We simply can’t handle all of those people with our current staff and infrastructure,”Junge said. “It should be services that are funded, because we can’t meet the need without funding – and we’re already turning people away.”
These sentiments were echoed in the public comment given by Skye Anfield, Director and Owner of Arbor House Portland.
Anfeild told the hearing as the women at their facility transition into recovery, the largest barrier they face is their criminal record.
“This history restricts their ability to secure employment, secure housing, open lines of credit – many elements that make up a normal life – long after they’ve sustained recovery,” Anfeild explained. “If Measure 110 is attempting to undo some of the damage done by the war on drugs, expungement services must be accessible in concert with decriminalization, or else what’s the point?”
According to OHA, the final decision on grants will be made Feb. 2, 2022, and the first installments of grant awards will be issued the Behavioral Health Resource Network grantees March 7, 2022.