Samaritan Creates Plan to Help Substance Users

When COVID‑19 hit Oregon in early 2020, many services began
shutting down. An unintended consequence of stay‑at‑home
directives was an alarming increase of drug overdoses. Later
in 2020, wildfires forced thousands of local residents to
evacuate while homeless people were left watching and
uncertain what to do.

“We realized then that we had no regional plan to help
homeless and low‑income people who struggle with substance
use disorder during emergencies,” said Joanna Kubes,
Community Health Improvement Program specialist. “Now,
thanks to a federal grant, we have a plan.”

Substance use disorder is a disease of dependency on legal
or illegal drugs and medication including alcohol. In the
best of times, it can be difficult for people to seek treatment,
counseling and peer support. Lack of housing, transportation,
health insurance and finances are among the barriers, and
these barriers are compounded during times of crisis, disaster
or pandemic, Kubes said.

The new plan will supplement existing emergency
preparedness plans. It will provide a framework of support
and coordination for substance use disorder prevention,
treatment and recovery services. To create and implement
this plan, Samaritan obtained a federal grant on behalf of
the Coast to the Cascades Community Wellness Network, a
well‑established consortium that addresses health issues
across Benton, Lincoln and Linn counties.

Along with gathering information from a wide range
of service agencies throughout the region, those who
wrote the plan sought input from people who have lived
experience in recovery.

“We believe this is the first such plan in the nation to address
this issue,” Kubes said. “Our plan is specific to our three
counties, yet broad enough to be adapted by other agencies
throughout the nation. Our hope is that all communities can
be prepared to assist our most vulnerable populations so they
are not forgotten during times of disaster.”

For more information about the plan, visit

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