Union County commissioners request state support in managing substance abuse crisis

By on Thursday, February 22nd, 2024 in More Top Stories Northeastern Oregon News

UNION COUNTY – On February 21, 2024, the Union County Board of Commissioners approved Regulation 2024-03, “In the matter of a resolution requesting support from the state of Oregon Legislature in assisting Union County in combatting the current substance abuse crisis.” Presented by Union County Emergency Manager Nick Vora and Union County Sheriff Cody Bowen, the resolution, as its name implies, requests state level support for Union County in managing the ongoing drug crisis and informs the legislature that Union County is willing to work with the state in finding new solutions.

The approval of the resolution comes in the wake of two pieces of data related to Oregon’s substance abuse crisis, one statewide and one local. Statewide, it was recently announced by the CDC that Oregon had seen a roughly 1,500% increase in overdoses since 2019 (more details here). The second piece of data, provided by the La Grande police department (LGPD), shows that the LGPD saw a 500% increase in drug overdose calls through the regional dispatch center between 2020 and 2023, going from 10 to 60. Of these calls, 40 were specifically within La Grande. Note that this only refers to calls received by the dispatch center and is not representative of all overdoses that occurred within La Grande and Union County.

The full text of resolution 2024-03 can be read Below:

As outlined in the text, the resolution does not request a specific volume of funding or refer to a specific project, but rather broadly requests assistance and cooperation in the following categories:

  • “Increased coordination and delivery of mental health treatment services;
  • Increased coordination and delivery of addiction treatment services;
  • Improved statutory tools to allow for effective enforcement and just prosecution of crimes related to the manufacture, distribution, and possession of illicit substances; and
  • Sustained funding and staff support for investigations in both rural and urban areas targeting the manufacture and distribution of illicit substances.”

Regarding the final bullet point, Sheriff Bowen mentioned while presenting the resolution that the Union County Sherriff’s Office (UCSO) is hoping to secure additional resources for the newly re-launched Union County Drug Task Force. Once composed of representatives from the UCSO, LGPD, and Oregon State Police (OSP), the taskforce was previously discontinued following redistribution of funding and legal complications with Measure 110. Now managed exclusively by the UCSO again, Bowen noted that an injection of resources/funding from the state could not only help expand the revived taskforce but give it the longevity needed to act as a proper deterrent to local drug trafficking.