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Back OnTrack again

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Officials with OnTrack say the drug treatment organization is back on track and has forged strong partnerships to fight addiction in the community.

OnTrack was faulted by the state for substandard conditions at its residential housing facilities and was hit by lawsuits alleging inappropriate behavior by staff and retaliation against whistleblowers.

The organization has refurbished its buildings, improved staff training and strengthened oversight by its board of directors, officials said.

To trumpet the changes, OnTrack held an open house Friday at its remodeled building on the corner of West Main and Holly streets in downtown Medford.

OnTrack consolidated its adult outpatient treatment in the building, which is wheelchair accessible and open until 9 p.m.

“We wanted to make sure we could serve all of the community,” said Dr. Alan Ledford, who took the helm as executive director in September 2017 after former executive director Rita Sullivan was let go in February of that year.

Sullivan built OnTrack into Southern Oregon’s largest provider of addiction recovery services, but some employees said she was verbally abusive.

Patricia Kauffman, chairwoman of the board of directors, said OnTrack is doing well under Ledford’s leadership.

“I think we hired the right executive director,” she said. “He’s done a wonderful job. He believes in collaboration and he believes in being open and transparent and has been behind the reorganization.”

Kauffman said board members can drop in at OnTrack at any time and talk directly with staff about how things are going.

“Having an open system is a very good idea,” she said.

Kauffman said OnTrack has renovated all of its housing, which is used by OnTrack clients and others in the community.

Ledford said OnTrack has improved staff training and provides training for other providers in the area.

“We’ve made a lot of changes that have led to us being a better community partner,” he said.

Both Ledford and Kauffman said no single addiction treatment provider can tackle the complex problem of addiction.

Root causes of addiction include poverty, trauma, lack of affordable housing, workers who don’t have the training and skills to get good-paying jobs and even loneliness, they said.

“Addiction and substance-use disorders are very complex conditions that need a communitywide effort to stem the tide and change the direction,” Ledford said.

He said OnTrack is working to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and drug abuse through its programs for moms and dads battling addiction.

Ledford pointed to the new Oasis Center next to the Addictions Recovery Center in Medford as another organization working on those goals.

The center’s physician and co-founder, Dr. Kerri Hecox, provides primary care for pregnant women and parents in recovery, along with their kids. She can prescribe medication that eases cravings and withdrawal symptoms of opioids, which include heroin and pain pills such as OxyContin.

Max’s Mission is battling opioid overdose deaths by distributing the overdose antidote naloxone, Ledford pointed out.

The community needs more vocational training programs that would prepare people for good-paying jobs as electricians, plumbers and other skilled trades. That also would help ease the housing crunch, he said.

Kauffman said peer support groups are helping to ease loneliness among people in recovery, while also providing them with positive role models who have broken the grip of addiction.

Strong public health campaigns can work, Ledford said.

He pointed to government warnings and growing public awareness about the dangers of smoking. Those efforts helped lead to a dramatic drop in cigarette addiction.

In 1965, 42% of adults smoked, but that fell to 14% in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although illegal drugs get more attention, Ledford said alcoholism and smoking are still significant public health issues.

Alcohol misuse has been growing in Oregon in recent years, he noted.

Ledford said the popularity of different types of drugs rises and falls. The cocaine and crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s was later overtaken by methamphetamine addiction.

Heroin and meth are the top illegal drugs used today. The potent and often deadly drug fentanyl has emerged as a leading cause of overdose deaths, Ledford said.

Dealers have begun lacing a wide range of drugs with fentanyl, from heroin to counterfeit pain pills.

Ledford said everyone has a role to play when it comes to battling addiction.

“In our community, no one can do it alone,” he said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune{ } Communications Director Eddie Wallace walks inside the newly remodeled OnTrack treatment center in downtown Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune{ } Pat Kauffman and Dr. Alan Ledford sit in the sun outside the entrance of OnTrack.