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Jackson County Officials Declare Addiction A Public Health Crisis

Kelley Rene standing in front of Jackon County Courthouse
Erik Neumann / JPRNews
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Kelly Rene joined Jackson County commissioners on Wednesday to advocate for the passage of the local resolution.

Jackson County has become the first in Oregon to formally declare addiction a public health crisis.

County commissioners voted on Wednesday to pass the non-binding resolution that calls on state leaders to take steps to reduce Oregon’s rates of drug and alcohol addiction.

“Jackson County expects its State and Federal elected leaders to accomplish the above goals by funding the development, implementation, and continuation of a new, comprehensive statewide addiction recovery continuum-of-care,” the resolution reads.

Around five people die from alcohol-related deaths each day in Oregon and one to two die from drug overdoses. At the same time, according to the group Oregon Recovers, the state is ranked 50th in access to treatment services.

“Having the resolution helps to eradicate the stigma associated with addiction by announcing it as, not only a public health crisis, but a chronic disease,” said Kelly Rene, a member of the Southern Oregon Recovers Advocacy Committee, a regional chapter of Oregon Recovers. Rene is also in recovery for substance abuse.  

While Jackson is the first county in Oregon to make such a proclamation, Gov. Kate Brown declared addiction and substance abuse a public health emergency in the state in early 2018.

The county-level resolution is one of a series of similar declarations being unveiled in the coming weeks in cities including Bend, Eugene and Portland that Oregon Recovery helped draft as part of National Recovery Month.

“The resolution sort of identifies the problem at hand, and then from there we can move forward into a solution,” Rene said.

Erik Neumann is the interim news director at Jefferson Public Radio. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.