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“Treatment is an investment at a bargain price that we cannot afford to pass up.”

Letter to the Editor

Is Portland’s Decriminalization of Drug Use the Right Approach?

Jordan Gale for The New York Times

In today’s New York Times, Dr. Peter Provet, Odyssey House President & CEO, responds to a recent article about Portland’s drug crisis.

To the Editor:

Re “A Drug User’s ‘Paradise’” (Science Times, Aug. 1):

Portland, Ore., is not a drug user’s paradise. The people who are struggling with addiction, homelessness and mental illness in Portland and other cities in America are barely surviving, and more will die without access to treatment services, affordable housing, and medical and mental health care.

The citizens of Portland who voted in favor of Measure 110 understood this to be an approach that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs and direct revenue from marijuana sales to fund drug treatment and recovery services. This is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough.

Drug treatment is not a “soft” option. It is a rigorous, structured process that addresses the underlying issues of a person’s addiction, including trauma, mental illness and medical concerns. When operated by trained staff, with the provision of medication-assisted treatment, primary health care services, and connections to jobs and housing, treatment is the most effective solution.

Compared with the cost of lives lost and the increased burdens on police, prison systems, emergency health care and other essential services, treatment is also an investment at a bargain price that we cannot afford to pass up.

I urge the city of Portland and other cities in America to invest in comprehensive drug treatment and recovery services. Treatment is proven to be the only sustainable way to effectively address addiction and save lives.

Peter Provet
New York
The writer is the president of Odyssey House.

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