Oregon Department of Human Services Director's Message
September 4, 2009 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director
Celebrate people in recovery and those who serve them
"I look to the future because that's where I'm going to spend the rest of my life."
~George Burns
This week I want to tell you one of the many remarkable stories of the people we encounter in our work.

Ten years ago, Gary Cobb was addicted to heroin and living under a bridge in Tacoma, Washington, after spending most of his life as an addict. He says his addiction started when he was just 7 years old, with sniffing gasoline until he passed out. At 14, he was drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. By his early 20s heroin was his drug of choice. Ten years ago Gary thought he would die under that bridge. But that isn't what happened.

Gary Cobb
Gary Cobb

Through one of our many drug and alcohol treatment partners Gary found the help he needed to take his life back, and he is a nationally recognized advocate for people in recovery. The Oregon Health Plan funded his recovery at a program near his home, which included detox, outpatient treatment and Alcohol and Drug Free Community Housing. Gary now works tirelessly as a recovery mentor and advocate to inspire others to find their own path to recovery.

Now is the time to celebrate all the Garys out there and the people who help make recovery possible every day. September marks the 20th anniversary of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. This year's theme, "Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Learn, Together we Heal," emphasizes the need to educate people in our communities about the disease of addiction and to celebrate recovery.

While Gary serves as a great example of what recovery in Oregon can look like, not enough men and women have taken that first step. Nearly 260,000 Oregonians suffer from substance abuse or dependency problems. Untreated substance abuse costs Oregon $5.93 billion each year. This represents about 4 percent of Oregon's gross state product or $1,600 per person.

In a time when we must scrutinize the expenditure of every penny, investing in drug and alcohol treatment is not just the compassionate thing to do, it's good business. The return ratio is incredible. Every dollar spent on addictions treatment results in a return of between $4 and $7. These savings translate into safer communities and children.

Substance abuse, particularly methamphetamine abuse, drives crime rates in our state and addiction is the number one cause of property crime. In addition to the heavy financial costs, substance disorders take a toll on families and the communities in which they live. As I have often said, drug and alcohol addiction unfortunately keep DHS in business -- addiction is a leading cause of child abuse in Oregon. In order to turn this around we must all work to ensure that every Oregonian with a substance abuse problem can get the treatment and recovery support he or she needs to lead a more productive and fulfilling life, both at home and in the workplace.

Addiction is a disease and treatment for this disease works. For example, 93 percent of those who received drug and alcohol treatment remain arrest-free while getting services.

So please join me in celebrating Recovery Month and make a special effort to recognize the achievements of those who seek treatment and turn their lives around.

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