SALEM, Ore.– Oregon lawmakers heard from Aaron Anderson. “I’m in my 34th year as a police officer. I don’t shed a tear often at work, but I’m here to tell you about the most recent time that happened.” The time he’s talking about when he struggled, trying to save the life of a young overdose victim.”All of our attention was on that 15 year old boy. He lay on the floor motionless and blue.”
Albany Mayor Alexander Johnson, said, “One of my goddaughters was dropped off at Albany General Hospital. She died of a fentanyl overdose.” He added, “Fentanyl has become a death grip on our society, our cities, our rural communities, and our schools.”
Michelle Stroh’s a mom from Oregon City. “My son Keaton died of a one pill fentanyl poisoning in July of 2020. He was 25 years old.”
They also heard from people like Josh Lair. “I am a person with lived experience, 20 years of active addiction. I currently have over 13 years clean and sober.” He’s now a director for a treatment program. “Everybody understands that is out there in the streets dealing and using the way that it is with the criminal justice system right now. There is just not enough beds and they are not arresting and incarcerating anyone, which gets us to the point of continual use and depravity.”
Democratic State Senator Kate Lieber is chairing the Joint Committee on Addiction and Community Safety. “We have over a thousand beds that are going to be coming online for the next year. And these are new treatment beds from investments we have made in the past. We are trying to make sure that we’re not putting too much through the criminal justice system, which is also struggling.” She told the crowd, “There is no one thing that we’re going to do that is going to immediately be able to fix what’s happening on our streets.”
A lawmaker with experience in law enforcement, Republican State Representative Jeff Helrich, also spoke out. “It is time to stop enabling drug addiction in the state of Oregon. It is time to end Measure 110. I’m a retired police sergeant and I worked for the city for over 25 and a half years to keep it safe.”
More than a hundred people testified about the three bills lawmakers are considering.Lawmakers are considering three bills. They are SB 1555 which creates the crime of using drugs in public, HB 4036, which would increase the penalties for possession, and HB 4002, which requires the Oregon Health Authority to study the state’s drug addiction crisis.
Some groups, including the ACLU oppose them. “These bills would reverse course on Oregonians bold, compassionate decision to provide health care to people struggling with addiction, rather than responding with arrest and incarceration.”