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Services for substance use in Oregon face widespread gaps, study finds

In this file photo, a long-standing member of Alcoholics Anonymous holds a sobriety coin.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff
In this file photo, a long-standing member of Alcoholics Anonymous holds a sobriety coin.

A new study by researchers at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health reveals large gaps in services in Oregon for substance use disorder treatment, prevention and recovery.

Oregon needs to double the services it offers for substance abuse treatment, recovery and harm prevention, according to a new study by researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University and Portland State University School of Public Health.

The study, published Sept. 30, focused on three areas, including workforce, to understand the gaps and barriers to services. In the research, “substance” was defined as alcohol and other drugs including cannabis, but not tobacco/nicotine.

Among its findings, the study revealed an acute shortage of qualified drug prevention specialists in Oregon.

“We only actually have 62 people in the state with that certification and we estimated that we need over 900,” said Katie Lenahan, the study’s lead author and a research project manager at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health.

Lenahan and her team conducted surveys with more than 160 organizations across all 36 counties in Oregon that provide substance use disorder services, and found that many of them were unable to provide culturally relevant services to clients.

“Only 16% of organizations that we talked to offered services specific to the LGBTQIA community, and we know that that’s a community who is disproportionately affected by substance use disorder,” Lenahan said.

The surveys also revealed transportation as a key barrier to care, especially among nearly 90% of organizations providing services in Southern Oregon.

Katie Lenahan spoke to “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller. Click play to listen to the full conversation:

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