Linn County will pledge $125,000 of its $250,000 in marijuana taxes to the Samaritan Treatment and Recovery Services Center to be constructed in Lebanon.
The money will come with a caveat that ground must be broken by Dec. 31, 2019, or on another agreed-upon date.
Commissioners Roger Nyquist, John Lindsey and Will Tucker were unanimous in their support of the project at their Tuesday meeting.
“The world has changed around us in the last 10 years when it comes to the impact of drug addiction,” Nyquist said. “We just approved placing the issue of renewing our law enforcement levy on the May ballot. Probably 70 to 80 percent of the work that our deputies do is due to people making bad choices due to alcohol and drug abuse.”
He added, “As a society, we must become proactive to bend that trend in a different direction.”
Nyquist also said it’s imperative that there be beds open at inpatient treatment centers such as the one proposed by Samaritan Health Services.
“When someone with an addiction issue becomes ready to commit to treatment there has to be a bed available for them,” Nyquist said. “If they had to wait to get in, they often disappear.”
Tucker agreed with Nyquist, saying that the few beds that are available in Corvallis are usually always filled.
“We need a quality facility,” Tucker said. “It will be an important tool in our tool box to help our citizens in need.”
Lindsey said the mid-valley, as well as most of the country, is seeing an “uptick in heroin use.”
He questioned the state Legislature's decision in its 2017 session to reduce heroin, meth and cocaine possession from felonies.
“The greed of our state Legislature is driving this problem,” Lindsey said.
Samaritan Health Services announced the plan to develop the 16-bed facility about two years ago, and purchased the former Teen Challenge property and secured an administrator.
Samaritan shifted gears as to how the facility would be funded after the state approved a 6-percent tax on health care facilities that will cost the system an estimated $25 million per year.
Now, Samaritan is seeking funding resources through foundations, grants, and Linn and Benton counties to pay for the estimated $4 million project, which will encompass 12,000 square feet.
Jennifer Stanaway, executive director of the Albany General Hospital Foundation, said in a letter to the commissioners, “Two out of three Oregonians are either addicted or have an addicted person in their lives. Oregon ranks sixth in the nation for addiction. However, we rank 51st in providing access to any level of addiction treatment.”
Stanaway added that Linn County ranks seventh statewide in terms of addiction.
She also pointed out that more than half of all drug use “begins with recreational marijuana use.”
The foundations of the three local hospitals in Albany, Corvallis and Lebanon are key supporters of the project. Although the facility will be in Lebanon, it will be a regional center for residents of Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties where Samaritan Health has health care centers.