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Drug treatment in Oregon still hitting a bottleneck at inpatient care

Measure 110 has helped support an expansion in substance use outreach throughout Oregon, but there are only so many inpatient drug treatment beds to go around.

Jamie Parfitt

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Published: 6:11 PM PDT August 14, 2023
Updated: 4:27 PM PDT August 15, 2023

Amid a mounting crisis of substance use and overdoses in Oregon, millions more dollars every year are now flowing toward programs meant to help people kick their addictions and get back on their feet thanks to Measure 110. But an important link in the chain, inpatient drug withdrawal management, formerly known as detox, remains a bottleneck that this funding has thus far done little to ease.

Within the past year, KGW reporters have shadowed outreach workers as they attempted to make contact with people suffering from addiction on the streets, in Portland and beyond. But after making those contacts, workers are often confronted by another major challenge — trying to connect people with beds in an inpatient facility so that they can get through withdrawal, the brutal first step toward getting sober.

Inpatient withdrawal management is rarely, if ever, immediately available.

At Hooper Detoxification Stabilization Center in North Portland, inpatient admission opens for just an hour each weekday, from 6:45 to 7:45 a.m. At detox facilities like Hooper, people often line up at the door each morning for a chance at an open bed.

This is in Portland, where there are at least two such large-scale withdrawal management facilities, even if they're always operating at capacity. Other parts of Oregon aren't so lucky, which makes it much more difficult for outreach workers to get people into detox.

As of a March 2019 report — prior to Measure 110 — there were 13 withdrawal management facilities licensed with the Oregon Health Authority, for a total of 201 beds. Those facilities were located in just nine of Oregon's 36 counties.

According to OHA data obtained through a records request this month, there are now 22 withdrawal management facilities licensed with the state — although some are incredibly small and three even share a campus — with a total capacity of 308 beds. The facilities are now located in 14 counties.

It's a significant improvement. But it still isn't enough to keep up with the need.

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