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'We don't care about people's lives': Oregon last in nation for access to drug treatment

Mother who lost daughter to alcohol addiction questions why state’s strategic plan to combat addiction is, according to its authors, on the “back burner."

David Molko

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Published: 6:27 PM PST February 11, 2022
Updated: 8:29 PM PST February 11, 2022

Cathy McInnis lives with the loss every day. Her daughter, Katie Buckle, died from heart disease in March 2020, after a decade-long battle with alcohol addiction. Buckle was 28 years old.

"It’s a horrible, cruel disease. It’s so misunderstood," McInnis said, as she looked at the final photo she took with her daughter.

Buckle, who McInnis described as having an incredible smile that would light up any room she walked into, actively sought out treatment, her mom said.

"That’s the part I loved about her, is that she wanted the help," McInnis said.

But finding a place for Buckle to detox, as well as to get help for her depression and anxiety, wasn’t always easy.

"You’re just constantly on a treadmill trying to grasp for any type of help you can get," McInnis recalled.

Sometimes there were beds available near Keizer, where Buckle lived with her mother. And sometimes there weren't.

On March 1, 2020, Buckle died while in a treatment facility in California.

Credit: Cathy McInnis
Katie Buckle, 28, far right, died from heart disease after years of alcohol abuse. Her mother, Cathy McInnis, second from right, has become an outspoken advocate for improved access to prevention and treatment in Oregon.

McInnis still mourns both her daughter’s death and the fact it happened far from home.

"Why did I have to send her to Southern California?" McInnis asked. "Why? I don’t get that."

So when McInnis learned this year that new federal data placed Oregon last among all 50 states in people who were seeking drug treatment, but couldn’t access it, she was once again, devastated.

"Fiftieth. We’re last. Think about that," she said. "Something’s wrong with that in my opinion. It means we don’t care about people’s lives."

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