Eugene City Councilor Ward 8


Apparent hostage situation at UO ends in arrest

Another dangerous situation highlighting the mental health crisis we and many communities are facing. All too often mental health problems default to our police officers and firefighters as the last line of defense because we have failed to address the problem earlier in the process. We the public are then dissatisfied with the outcome and blame our responders when it is the system we created that has failed. Health and human services, which includes mental health, is a function of county and state government in Oregon, but like our unhoused problem, it is something that effects everyone, and all levels of our government need to work effectively with one another to address this situation. Likewise, our non-profit organizations must work seamlessly and effectively if we hope to bring this problem under control. I know that many of you here locally are thinking, what about CAHOOTS? In fact, I hear many people - with no street level response experience - describe CAHOOTS as the panacea to all of our problems. I agree that CAHOOTS is an important component of our response system and ideally positioned to respond to a band of non-violent or the most basic of medical incidents, but CAHOOTS like police and fire, needs a place to take many of the people they encounter. Otherwise it is like having a good ambulance system but no hospital, or a police force with no jail or alternative facility to provide help. Our mental health system needs a back end to effectively address this problem.

05 November 2021

How has Measure 110 measured up

The two keys in addressing drug addiction are preventing drug misuse in the first place and treating those who have fallen into the downward spiral of addiction. As a former career firefighter, I responded all too often to calls where I saw first hand the adverse psychological and physiological effects of drug addiction on individuals, and the collateral damage inflicted upon their families and our community. BM 110, passed by Oregon voters in 2020 securing 58% of the vote decriminalized drug possession in amounts for personal misuse with the intent of getting the addicted into treatment. While I believe that voters thought they were doing the right thing, this change in law and practice has proven to be a dismal failure for a variety of reasons. Many of those working close to the problem predicted this outcome. For the misuser, addiction is powerful force and too few are strong enough, motivated enough, or care enough to voluntarily enter and complete treatment. The choice to confront one's addiction also requires continued work post treatment to remain drug free. I specifically remember one call many years ago involving a young man who was experiencing withdrawals from the lack of having opiates in his system. He was in agony. When I asked him to describe what he was feeling he responded (paraphrased) that it was like the worst flu you could ever have multiplied by a factor of 10. Considering that one can replace the symptoms of withdrawal with euphoria for $5 to $10, it's no wonder that many who suffer from addiction are unwilling and unable to fight this demon on their own, or even willing to voluntarily seek treatment. As a society we need to come up with new strategies for addressing this problem, a problem that plagues people from every strata of our society, but is especially prevalent in our unhoused community. BM 110 is not the answer the voters of Oregon were seeking. We need to go back to the drawing board and find better ways to address this problem.

29 October 2021

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