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Walk for Recovery highlights need for addiction treatment

A Walk for Recovery planned through downtown Medford Saturday is aimed at bringing attention to the need for more addiction treatment in Oregon.

Walkers will travel a route that begins and ends at Medford City Hall, where they will write on a “Recovery Wall” why addiction recovery matters, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on addiction, and what they want to see done about it, organizers said.

Participants include people in recovery, their friends and family, and other supporters.

Planned at other locations around the state, the 2021 Walk for Recovery events will call on Gov. Kate Brown to fund and implement the Alcohol & Drug Policy Commission statewide addiction recovery strategic plan. Released in 2020, the plans calls for a range of addiction services to match the scale and urgency of Oregon’s addiction crisis, organizers said.

Oregon ranks 47th among states in the nation for access to addiction treatment, while ranking fourth highest in addiction, organizers said.

“The pandemic has thrown fuel on the fire of Oregon's addiction crisis. Deaths from overdose and alcohol are way up, eclipsing even COVID deaths, while access to treatment is way down,” said Oregon Recovers Executive Director Mike Marshall.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that overdose deaths in Oregon rose 36% between February 2020 and February 2021.

According to Oregon’s chief medical examiner, alcohol deaths increased 71% in 2020 compared to 2019.

Statewide, total treatment beds fell from 639 to 399 due to social distancing requirements and a loss of workers in addiction treatment and other mental health care fields, according to the Oregon Council for Behavioral Health.

Organizers of the Medford Walk for Recovery said walkers will be staggered between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to allow for social distancing.