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Groups honored for innovative ways to fight addiction

A local nonprofit is being recognized as one of nine programs around the state that are tackling addiction and saving lives in innovative ways.

Julia and David Pinsky founded Max’s Mission after their son Max died of a heroin overdose in Ashland in 2013.

Since 2016, Max’s Mission has given away more than 3,000 doses of naloxone, an easy-to-use nasal spray that reverses an opioid overdose. Opioids include heroin and prescription pain pills such as oxycodone.

“We’re honored to be recognized with these other amazing organizations,” Julia Pinsky said of the Oregon Innovation Now Awards being presented this week in Portland. “We’re glad naloxone is seen as an integral part of addressing the opioid epidemic.”

The couple know of at least 15 people who were saved from overdosing after someone administered naloxone given out at a Max’s Mission distribution and training event.

“The nine programs highlighted are saving lives and offering hope to thousands of residents,” said Kelsey Trotter, spokesperson for the national group Addiction Policy Forum, which recognizes programs in Oregon and other states.

The newly released Oregon Innovations to Address Addiction report details the efforts of the nine programs in the state.

“The great thing about programs highlighted in the report is they can be replicated across the state and country — and we believe when they are, we will be closer to eliminating addiction as a major health crisis,” Trotter said.

In West Linn, Community Living Above works with the local school district to raise awareness among teens and families about substance use disorders and mental health issues.

During monthly lunches, 50 to 75 teens show up to share their thoughts and ideas on addiction prevention with each other, friends, families and community members. An academy aimed at high school students in recovery is opening this month, according to Community Living Above.

In Portland, doctors can refer patients with addiction-related diseases and other health problems to the Improving Addiction Care Team.

The goal is to help patients and stop them from cycling in and out of hospitals by linking them with health care providers and certified recovery mentors.

Dr. Honora Englander helped create the program after surveying hospitalized patients with addiction issues. She found 58% with high risk alcohol use and 67% with high risk drug use wanted to quit or cut back.

But long wait times for treatment, lack of resources for medically complex patients and low patient trust in providers made it hard for them to get care.

Englander said the program reframes addiction as a treatable chronic disease — empowering both doctors and patients.

Also in Portland, Central City Concern combines addiction treatment with housing. As one of its treatment methods, the organization uses medication that reduces drug cravings and eases withdrawal symptoms.

The group saw a drop in emergency room visits among patients using medication to aid in their recovery.

Portland also has the Project Nurture program, a prenatal program for pregnant women who need help with addiction.

The program reduced the odds of premature birth and babies were 50% less likely to need a higher level of care, such as admittance into a neonatal intensive care unit. Support continues after childbirth, and 93% of women who complete the program parented their babies through the first year, reducing the strain on the overloaded foster care system.

The Alano Club of Portland is another group offering innovative help with addiction treatment and recovery, including yoga, meditation and The Recovery Gym — the first CrossFit gym exclusively for people in recovery.

The club’s practical, science-based Recovery Toolkit Series includes classes on brain chemistry, addiction, recovery advocacy, relapse prevention and relationships.

In 2016, Clackamas County launched its Community Corrections Transition Center to help recently released offenders find jobs and addiction treatment. Peer mentors who have been in custody and battled addiction themselves provide guidance through the Bridges for Change program.

Working with local leaders and the court system, the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office created a three-tiered system for drug offenders in 2017.

Low-risk people caught with drugs can avoid being charged by seeking treatment and staying out of trouble for a year. For those in the first tier, 84% didn’t commit a new crime, and the program overall eliminated the need for 448 court appearances.

Those who aren’t successful enter the second tier, in which they face traditional prosecution.

On the third tier, those who’ve made a career out of manufacturing and dealing drugs face enhanced prosecution.

The final program recognized for innovation is the OR-HOPE partnership with Oregon Health & Science University and a number of other organizations.

The group is conducting research on how to boost hepatitis C and HIV testing and treatment in rural Oregon counties through methods such as telemedicine.

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

Julia Pinsky, co-founder of Max’s Mission, and her husband, David Pinsky, received a statewide innovation award for their work to reduce overdose deaths. Mail Tribune/file photo