As we move to transform our agency and our state's health and human services systems, one of the most important things we need to do is focus on the root causes of issues and prevent problems so as to avoid the toll of their consequences. One of the most prominent issues and some of the most important work we do at our agency is related to the disease of alcohol and drug addiction.
Richard Harris and Louise Wedge
This month we recognize the importance of this work during Recovery Month. I am proud to have joined a celebration of "Hope, Resilience and Recovery" today in the lobby of the Human Services Building. It gave me a chance to thank and honor the people in recovery, family members, friends and colleagues for their contributions to helping Oregonians make healthier choices - whether they are children, adolescents, young adults or older adults in need of preventive services, treatment or recovery supports.
As a state, we can no longer afford the human and financial toll of addiction. It affects the human services system, the health care system, the criminal justice system, the education system and our society overall. And, more importantly, we cannot afford the human toll of destroyed lives and destroyed families.
The most heartbreaking and appalling truth of the matter is that it's all a preventable and treatable tragedy. Here are some facts on the cost of addiction:
- 60 percent of the children in foster care have a parent with substance abuse issues.
- In Oregon, total direct economic costs from untreated addiction were $5.9 billion in 2006 when health care, lost earnings and other social costs are calculated, according to a 2008 study conducted by ECONorthwest.
- Oregon ranks fourth in the nation for alcohol-induced deaths.
- In Multnomah County last year, 62 percent of the men arrested for any offense tested positive for drugs at the time of their arrest. 72.5 percent of those arrested for property crimes and 50 percent of those arrested for violent crimes had drugs in their system when they were arrested.
- Alcohol abuse alone cost Oregon's economy approximately $3.2 billion in 2006. A large number by any measure, it is approximately eight times greater than the $395 million in tax revenues collected in fiscal year 2006 from the sale of alcohol.
- 9.5 percent of the general population (about the same number as those with type 2 diabetes) and 2.5 million adolescents have addiction disorders.
- Substance dependence affects 22 percent of people seeking health care.
- People with substance disorders, including addiction, use approximately eight times more health care services than the general population.
- Research shows us that every dollar invested in addiction treatment yields a cost offset of $5 - $10 in other publicly supported services. This includes foster care, self-sufficiency services, corrections and health care.
Yet one of the challenges facing us in Oregon, like many other states, has been our limited capacity to treat those who need addiction services. This is the result of a combination of factors including lack of affordable health care coverage and inadequate investments in prevention. Only roughly 10 percent of people nationally and 25 percent in Oregon are able to access addiction treatment and more than 40 percent of those who try to get help are denied because of cost or insurance barriers.
Addiction prevention, treatment and recovery is a top priority for the Oregon Health Authority and for the Department of Human Services. Through our own health reform efforts and the federal Affordable Care Act, we have a tremendous opportunity to improve access, affordability and quality of care for people needing addiction and behavioral health services.
Addiction, as a chronic condition that complicates other health diseases, must be treated and managed across the lifespan. Screening, early detection and intervention, and appropriate referral processes can help more Oregonians make healthy choices and lead more people to recovery.
Health reform gives us an opportunity to promote resilience and recovery through better coordination and integrated care as well as significant expansion of coverage for people who are currently unable to afford care. Opportunities to implement better screening, brief interventions in primary care settings and referral to specialty addiction care will result in earlier identification of problem behavior, greater accessibility for people needing help and continuing care recovery management approaches that currently are not widely practiced.
By preventing addiction whenever possible, treating it when it takes hold and providing supports for individuals in recovery, we make smart and humane investments that help families, individuals and our society. And that is something to celebrate.