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Walk for Recovery planned in Medford

People in recovery from addiction and others who want a better approach to treatment in Oregon will march through downtown Medford Friday during the Walk for Recovery.

The walk is one of four across Oregon in which participants will call on Gov. Kate Brown to develop a comprehensive, statewide addiction recovery plan.

The 2-mile Medford walk will begin at 6 p.m. at the Hawthorne Park playground, travel down Main Street and turn around near the Jackson County Community Justice building, 1101 W. Main St., before returning to the park via Eighth Street.

Mike Marshall, executive director of Oregon Recovers, said the group is pushing the governor and state Legislature for faster access to treatment, better prevention efforts and more support for people in recovery.

If an alcoholic or heroin or methamphetamine addict decides to seek treatment, they typically must wait 3 to 5 weeks to find a residential treatment bed, Marshall said.

“We send people away,” he said.

Marshall said a person arriving at a hospital emergency room suffering from diabetic shock or a heart problem would never be told to go away and check back later to see if treatment is available.

He said many organizations, including Medford-based Addictions Recovery Center, provide high-quality care. But across Oregon, the treatment and recovery system is fractured and incomplete.

Oregon Recovers hasn’t worked out a cost estimate for transforming how the state deals with addiction. The group has pushed the state’s Alcohol and Drug Commission to develop a plan first, Marshall said.

“For too long, the only mode of intervention was the criminal justice system,” he said.

Judges and prosecutors could use incentives and punishments to push people into treatment. But Oregon has decriminalized many low-level drug crimes, weakening drug court programs.

Marshall said the state needs to develop a new system to help people beat addiction and stay clean.

Oregon experiences about five drug overdose deaths each week and five alcohol-related deaths each day, according to Oregon Recovers.

Among states, Oregon has the fourth-highest rate of addiction, with 9% of the population suffering from a substance use disorder, according to the 2016-2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Meanwhile, some studies put Oregon last in access to treatment.

Untreated addiction costs Oregon at least $5.9 billion per year, including $4.15 billion in lost earnings, $813 million in health care and $967 million in other costs such as the criminal justice system and social welfare spending, according to the Portland-based ECONorthwest economic research firm.

More than half of children entering foster care in 2017 had a parent with a drug use problem, while 13% had a parent with an alcohol use problem, the Oregon Department of Human Services reported.

Marshall said it’s in taxpayers’ interest to support prevention, treatment and recovery support efforts.

People who have been in recovery for five years have only a 15% chance of relapsing, he said.

That success rate is better than many other chronic illnesses, he noted.

Marshall said the Walk for Recovery through Medford will be a festive event designed to remove the stigma of addiction.

Everyone is invited to walk, whether they have suffered from addiction themselves or know someone who has.

“This walk is a gift they can give people they love who are either in recovery or should be in recovery,” Marshall said.

Other walks are being held in Bend, Eugene and Portland.

The walks are part of a wave of local and statewide activities during September, which is National Recovery Month.

Registration for the walk costs $35, with proceeds going to the state advocacy group Oregon Recovers. For more information and to register, see oregonrecovers.org.

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

Walk for Recovery route in downtown Medford. Courtesy photo