Oregon Partnership Hosts Drug Czar

January 27, 2010

This excellent article from  Brian Stimson of the Skanner News about White House Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske’s visit to Oregon Partnership earlier this month:

January 21, 2010
In order to learn about a year-long program that aims to help Oregon National Guard members, Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, visited the offices of the Oregon Partnership last week.

In the largest deployment of Oregon National Guard troops since World War II, Oregon Air National Guard Brigadier General Bruce Prunk says guardsman face a variety of pressures when they return from the battlefield. An alliance between Oregon Partnership and the Oregon National Guard and Air National Guard is providing a much-needed, non-military relief center.
“They’ve been deployed two or three times,” Prunk said. “The stress that creates for their families and employers, having these resources, support networks is absolutely necessary.”

Staff and volunteers at the center are being trained to interact with the special needs of veterans, says Deborah Zwetchkenbaum, who is leading the veterans outreach program. When they call the main crises line, veterans have an option, press 1 and be connected to the national Veterans Administration or remain on the line to speak with someone in Oregon.
From March 2009 to the present, 778 veterans called into the suicide lifeline and 439 called into the drug and alcohol help line.
“The trouble is breaking the isolation,” Zwetchkenbaum said. “Just to open a conversation can unblock (solutions).”
The national attention from U.S. Drug Czar Kerlikowske was welcomed by Partnership staff. The former Seattle Police Chief has been touring the country, learning about successful anti-drug programs to possibly include in President Barack Obama’s national drugs strategy, due out in February.
“It’s important to reintegrate them into life,” he told reporters gathered at Oregon Partnership’s offices. “They’ve had a number of officers deployed more than once.”
Indeed, drug abuse and the criminal laws aimed at drug users have a profound effect on active and returning veterans. Of those veterans in federal prison, about 46 percent are incarcerated for drug law violations; fifteen percent of veterans in state prisons are there for drug law violations, and nearly 61 percent of all imprisoned veterans met the criteria for a substance abuse disorder, according to the United States Department of Justice.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization dedicated to reducing the harm of drug prohibition, drug policies aimed at incarcerating these veterans are in need of reform. With nearly 75 percent of veterans with PTSD also being diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, according to a 2008 study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, the need for help is clear.
Judy Cushing, President of Oregon Partnership, said veterans seeking help from one of the partnerships 24-hour crisis lines are often suffering from multiple problems.
“It often involves alcohol and drugs and mental health crises,” she said. “It isn’t just one or the other.”
Some branches of the service – such as the U.S. Navy — have “zero tolerance” policies in regards to illicit drugs. Service members may face less than honorable discharge for drug use – or even the use of legal hemp byproducts.
When asked if “zero tolerance” policies help or hurt service members seeking treatment for substance abuse problems, Kerlikowske said he supported the policies of individual branches and said “in all the branches, help is offered.”
“I would liken it to a police department where there are a number of avenues for drug testing,” he said. “Of course, combatant commanders have a responsibility to have a combat force that is ready, you can’t be prepared for combat when you’re involved in drugs.”
Even when out of the military, veterans tend to receive longer prisons sentences – an average of one year longer – for drug offenses, according to the United States Department of Justice.
The Drug Policy Alliance’s 2009 study “Healing a Broken System: Veterans Battling Addiction and Incarceration,” cited alcohol abuse – the most commonly abused drug in the military – as a major problem for Guards and Reservists.
“The likelihood of alcohol-related problems increased with those reporting any mental illness or use of medication,” the report stated.
Cushing said the risk of suicide is also high among veterans
“These soldiers need help and support, often that needs to come from a place that is confidential and safe and non-military,” Cushing said. “We are so proud to work hand-in hand with Oregon National Guard and Air Guard to provide confidential 24 hour services.”
The Drug Policy Alliance calls upon changes in the way the Department of Defense deals with service members suffering from substance abuse disorder, including allowing medication-assisted therapy; increased diversion and alternative treatment options instead of prison; allow treatment professionals, not judges, to make decisions about drug court mandated treatment; allow incarcerated veterans treatment in Veterans Administration hospitals, which was barred in 2002.
If you are in need of help, you can call the Oregon Partnerships substance abuse line at 800-923-HELP or the suicide intervention line at 800-SUICIDE.
You can view the Drug Policy Alliance’s report on veterans at www.drugpolicy.org.


Record Number of Calls to Oregon Partnership Suicide Intervention Line

January 25, 2010

 

For the first time, Oregon Partnership (OP) is receiving more calls to its suicide intervention line, Lifeline, than to its drug and alcohol HelpLine.

OP’s Lifeline received 18,619 calls in 2009 compared to 17,005 calls to HelpLine.  For Lifeline, that’s a record-breaking 65% increase in calls from the year before.

Last month alone, Lifeline received 1,777 calls.

“Unemployment continues to be at a record high, and that’s a reason for so many callers being in crisis,” said Leslie Storm, OP Crisis Lines Director. “And when unemployment benefits start disappearing, we expect the call volume to increase.”

OP crisis lines staff and volunteers counsel suicidal callers and follow up personally, ensuring people are safe and offering ongoing support.

“Last month, we facilitated 28 rescue calls.” said Storm. “These are callers  we consider to be in imminent danger to themselves. Emergency services were contacted.”

The Lifeline Call Center responds to callers in crisis, providing support, guidance and facilitating suicide rescue if necessary.

A growing number of military veterans, soldiers and their families are turning to OP crisis lines for help. Over the past 18 months, OP has taken aggressive steps to strengthen the safety net for soldiers and their families.

From March, 2009 to the present, OP has received 778 Lifeline calls from veterans, returning soldiers, and their families and 439 calls to HelpLine.

In total, OP’s crisis lines have been receiving an average of 3,000 calls per month, a 28% increase from 2008.

Lifeline: 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK
HelpLine: 1-800-923-HELP

LifeLine also takes calls from Washington, Idaho, and Alaska – calls those states don’t have the resources to respond to.

OP staff and 113 trained volunteers are on the crisis lines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

OREGON PARTNERSHIP

Founded in 1993, Oregon Partnership is a 501-3c non-profit organization whose mission is to end substance abuse and suicide.
 
OP is the state’s leading non-profit organization that promotes healthy communities through drug and alcohol awareness, prevention programs, and 24-hour crisis lines for treatment referral, crisis counseling, and suicide intervention.

YouthLine is a crisis line staffed by and for teens (1-877-553-TEEN).

To learn more, visit www.orpartnership.org


White House Drug Czar Praises Oregon Partnership

January 20, 2010

During last week’s visit to Oregon, White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske toured Oregon Partnership’s crisis lines, and spoke about the importance of OP’s reaching out to returning veterans and soldiers suffering from emotional distress, drug and alcohol abuse and thoughts of suicide.

He praised OP for its effective ways of helping these men and women.  And he talked about “The War on Drugs,” a term of which he dispises and how efforts to combat drug abuse needs redirection.

Here’s an editorial that ran in the Oregonian this week:

Everyone talks about the importance of treatment for drug abuse. The tricky part is delivering it.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, the Obama administration’s director of national drug control policy, affirmed during a visit to Portland this week that the president’s forthcoming drug policy statement wouldn’t use a phrase like “war on drugs,” but would instead favor drug prevention and treatment.

He said he thinks the American public is ready to try an approach that’s more balanced than some of the tough-on-crime measures, such a mandatory minimum sentences, that have proliferated in recent years.

It’s a question, not just of effectiveness, but of cost, said Kerlikowske, who toured drug treatment centers during a visit to Oregon last week. Treatment is simply cheaper for society than a crime and punishment.

Similarly, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger won election two years ago on a platform that emphasized treatment over enforcement for drug offenders. “For every dollar you spend on drug treatment you save between six and seven dollars in the state budget — health care, law enforcement, prison,” he pointed out while campaigning in 2008. “My goal on drug treatment is to bring down the crime rate.”

In 2008, Oregon voters passed Measure 57, the gentler of two anticrime measures on the ballot. Measure 57 balanced a lock-em-up approach with a promise to expand drug treatment programs for prisoners. But the treatment portion of that measure is on hold, a hostage of the state’s budget crunch. It is not scheduled to take effect fully until 2012.

The developments in Oregon and Washington, D.C., reflect what Kerlikowske believes to be a growing acceptance by the public that drug abuse and addiction is more of a public health problem and less a criminal choice that demands a harsh response. But he acknowledges that society traditionally has viewed drug abuse as “a moral failure.”

During his visit to Portland, Kerlikowske highlighted such programs as High Point, N.C.’s pre-arrest deterrence program. In High Point, he said, police will build a case against a young drug offender, documenting his drug sales or purchases. But rather than taking the young person out of his neighborhood in handcuffs and putting the first mark on his criminal record, the police send him a letter and ask him to come to the station for a visit. When he comes, they show him the evidence they’ve amassed and they ask him to pick one of two doors.

 Behind one is a cop ready to make an arrest. Behind the other is a counselor with access to resources for literacy, vocational education and drug treatment. It’s a pretty easy choice for most young people. Not everybody stays straight. But the early intervention scares some down the proper path, keeping them out of trouble and out of jail.

The program has spread to other cities, such as Providence, Seattle and Hempstead, N.Y., where it is credited with a marked reduction in the crime rate. Kerlikowske, who was police chief in Seattle, Buffalo and Port St. Lucie, Fla., says the country is ripe for an approach to drugs that doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker. Recent evidence suggests he’s right.


OP Launches “New Face It, Parents” Effort

January 8, 2010

Oregon Partnership’s Youth Advisory Council was busy during the Christmas break recording a public service announcement focusing on one important way parents can prevent teen drinking: By listening to their kids.

The PSA written and recorded by teens will air throughout the state on as many as 100 radio stations thanks to a program for non-profits sponsored by the Oregon Association of Broadcasters.

The spots are being produced free of charge by Entercom Radio of Portland, a longtime supporter of Oregon Partnership and the “Face It, Parents” campaign.

The message about listening and then following up on red flags (such as teen parties where adults aren’t present) is essential to preventing underage drinking.

Parents who listen to their teens and talk early and often about the dangers of alcohol and drugs have been proven to be largely successful in keeping their kids safe and healthy.

Drug prevention works, and if there’s any doubt, parents have the biggest influence on their kids.  So listen and communicate.