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Eugene City Council Considers Declaring Addiction A Public Health Crisis

Melorie Begay/KLCC News

After hearing testimony from several recovering addicts, the Eugene City Council is looking into declaring a public health crisis over substance abuse addiction. 

Teri Morgan is the Program Coordinator at the Springfield Treatment Center. She’s six years into recovery, but she said, it wasn't easy getting to this point. Despite multiple hospitalizations and run ins with the law, she said, no one helped her during her addiction.

“Nobody said 'hey do you want to go to treatment?’ Nobody said, 'Did you know you could stop using drugs and your life could get better.' It wasn’t until my daughter was placed into DHS custody that somebody actually said 'go to treatment and we’ll help you get there,'” Morgan said.

Morgan advocates with the group Oregon Recovers. She said the goal is to bolster resources and streamline intake processes for those seeking substance abuse treatment.

Oregon Recovers recently supported an initiative to declare a public health emergency in Jackson County. The intersection between substance abuse and homelesssness is a topic of interest for the group.

Morgan said hospitals are more likely to offer support and resources to homeless people with severe illnesses like cancer, than to people with addictions.

"If you have a homeless drug addict walk into the hospital, [hospital staff] tend to not really address any of those issues, they give acute care and then discharge that person without any follow up," Morgan said.

Substance abuse for people experiencing homelessness has steadily increased since 2013. In both the 2018 and 2019 Lane County Point-in-time counts, at least 1 in every 4 person experiencing homelessness had an addiction. 

The City Council is currently drafting a resolution declaring a public health crisis that’ll be acted on upon Mayor Lucy Vinis’ return. Councilor Jennifer Yeh has agreed to introduce the resolution.

Melorie Begay is a multimedia journalist for KLCC News. She was the Inaugural KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She has a bachelors in Multimedia Journalism from the University of New Mexico. She previously interned at KUNM public radio in Albuquerque, NM and served as a fellow for the online news publication New Mexico In Depth.