It’s true what they say, not all superheroes wear capes. Some of them hold a gavel, others carry stethoscopes , and one of them wore Olympic medals. Innovators across Oregon are saving the day through programs that are changing our response to addiction. In 2017, 530 Oregon residents died of a drug overdose. However, seemingly ordinary people are creating extraordinary programs and saving lives.
The Innovation Now initiative recognizes innovators across multiple sectors needed at the table to address addiction – prevention, treatment, recovery, criminal justice, health care , and child welfare – leaders who are creating solutions and driving change. Leading the way in honoring Oregon innovators is Olympian Carrie Steinseifer Bates, who uses her powerful voice to take on the stigma surrounding addiction, to talk openly about her recovery, and to live out loud.
The Oregon Innovation Now report highlights nine ground-breaking and life-saving programs addressing addiction.
Almost every family has been impacted by addiction one way or another. It’s a disease that doesn’t discriminate, and yet there is still so much shame and stigma around it. Community Living Above is a program that believes speaking out about substance misuse can help prevent the disease and promote healing. Each month the organization hosts a lunch at a high school, a safe space to share thoughts and ideas about prevention. This open conversation is what sets Community Living Above above other prevention programs.
Many missions to save the lives of children stem from the loss of one child to the preventable disease of addiction. Julia Pinsky lost her son Max to a heroin overdose in 2013, when he was only 25. After his death, Julia did extensive research on addiction, substance misuse and heroin and learned something surprisingly new at the time: an overdose is reversible. So, in 2016, Julia created Max’s Mission, a nonprofit that combats overdoses by distributing naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug, to communities in Southern Oregon.
IMPACT (Improving Addiction Care Treatment) is changing the culture within hospitals. Before, when patients would come into the hospital with an underlying substance use disorder they could get discharged with minimal help to address the issue. Now, patients get addiction help right in the hospital. IMPACT takes “team” to another level. The team includes doctors, social workers, treatment liaisons, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, and certified recovery mentor,s who all work together to make an impact addressing addiction when patients are admitted to the hospital.
The sheer number of people served by the CCC is astonishing: more than 13,000 every year. The organization integrates housing with services for substance use disorder, other health care issues and employment for the homeless population in Oregon. CCC also acts as a hub for 25 partners across a tri-county area, creating a full network of support and a model for cities across the nation.
There is often a lack of treatment and care for pregnant women struggling with addiction, and yet two lives are immediately at risk. Project Nurture closes the gap for some of those most vulnerable to substance misuse. The organization integrates substance use disorder treatment into standard maternity care. Participants undergo treatment, therapy, prenatal classes and so much more to set them up to become the best mothers possible.
It started like any other 12-step group, but now it offers so much more. The Alano Club of Portland is a recovery support club that helps over 10,000 people each month. The organization started with the standard support meetings, seminars and workshops, and since it has added referral services, holiday celebrations, and a Recovery Gym, giving support to the body, mind, and spirit.
Located across from the Clackamas County Jail, the Clackamas County Transition Center lowers recidivism for low-level offenders. The Transition Center offers services to those leaving jail and at risk of returning. They provide employment and housing assistance, peer mentors, cognitive therapy, mental health and substance use disorder assessment and on-site referrals. These parts work in unison to stop the revolving door. All it takes is a few steps across from the jail, and the willpower to walk there.
One is too hot, one is too cold, but the other is just right. The Goldilocks principle inspired a three-tier program to determine just the right amount of intervention needed for each individual based on their crime. District Attorney John Hummel developed the initiative to help individuals with substance use disorder, after discovering most local crimes correlated with drug use. Just like the child's story, not every tier will fit every person, but the Goldilocks Program finds the right intervention for each.
Rural areas have many barriers to receiving medical assistance: location, time and technology are only some of them. OR-HOPE (Oregon HIV/Hepatitis Opioid Prevention and Engagement) researches ways to make it easier for individuals to receive opioid-associated help and HCV/HIV testing. The research includes a team from law enforcement, primary care, people in recovery and faith-based leaders to devise action plans for those who need services, support, and hope.
Although our innovators don’t wear capes, some bear the scars of emotional battle wounds, some hold up their journeys as badges of honor, and all wear their hearts on their sleeves. In doing so, they drive success, compassion, and innovation. And, better than storybook superheroes, they save real lives.