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Washington County Deflection Program

Washington County will participate in a new statewide program intended to deflect people with substance use disorder away from the criminal justice system and into treatment.
Media release

The Board of County Commissioners, District Attorney, Sheriff and other County leaders are currently working to launch a new program recently established by the Oregon legislature, intended to address the ongoing need to help people with substance use disorders get into treatment.

On April 1, 2024, Oregon Governor Tina Kotek signed House Bill 4002 which expands funding for substance abuse treatment and, beginning September 1, 2024, makes possession of small amounts of dangerous street drugs an “unclassified misdemeanor.” The bill modifies Oregon’s Measure 110, passed by ballot initiative in 2020, and invests in treatment and prevention to solve the root causes of addiction and reduce the need for law enforcement intervention.

One component of the bill is known as the Oregon Behavioral Health Deflection Program which supports collaboration between law enforcement agencies and behavioral health entities, in an effort to assist people who may have substance use disorder or other untreated behavioral health disorders. The program will provide funding for Washington County and other participating counties to create new pathways for treatment and recovery, including peer support, outreach, case management and withdrawal stabilization services. The deflection program will serve as an alternative to criminal charges for possession of small amounts of some street drugs.

Over the next several weeks and months, Washington County’s Deflection Planning and Implementation Work Group will create and oversee a deflection program that meets the needs of Washington County residents and enhances public safety. The planning process will include the following goals and strategies:

  • Prevent the deadly side-effects of dangerous drugs by offering treatment and a path to healing and improved quality of life.
  • Use a human-centered approach that is trauma-informed, culturally responsive and meets people where they are.
  • Collaborate closely with all stakeholders across the continuum of treatment, behavioral health and public safety and justice, including city police agencies.
  • Operate within the funding resources provided by the State of Oregon.
  • Use data to inform and evaluate program practices, including decisions about who is eligible and criteria for successful completion.

As stated by Board Chair Kathryn Harrington, “This is an exciting opportunity to align new resources with a range of existing services that can address the underlying causes of substance use disorder, deflect people away from entering the criminal justice system and most importantly, save lives.”

Deflection overview
The new law is intended to allow drug users who come in contact with law enforcement to “deflect” from the criminal justice system and into treatment programs. The law also allows for an opt-in approach by counties and provides some discretion in how they design their individual deflection programs. All are required to coordinate with specific community partners as part of their program, including the district attorney, a law enforcement agency, the community mental health program (CMHP) and a representative from the local Behavioral Health Resource Network (BHRN).

The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) is coordinating the allocation of grant funding to counties across the state who opt in to the deflection program. As a result of House Bill 4002, Washington County is expected to receive just over $1.3 million in two installments between late May and the fall of 2024. These funds will be used to hire staff who will coordinate services and manage a deflection program that fulfills the requirements of the statute and meets the needs of county residents.

Partner agencies and stakeholders
Washington County’s Deflection Planning and Implementation (DPI) Work Group includes leaders representing the District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, Community Corrections Department, Health and Human Services Department, Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon and LifeWorks NW. The DPI Work Group is in the early stages of information gathering and planning. This includes ongoing communication and collaboration with city law enforcement and behavioral health partners who will be key contributors to the implementation and success of the County’s deflection program.