SPRINGFIELD — Fentanyl isn’t just causing overdoses. It’s making it harder to start addiction treatment — adding yet another layer of crisis to the country’s drug epidemic.
The dangerous and highly addictive synthetic opioid has been the primary driver of increased calls to 911, emergency room visits, and deaths in Lane County, according to Lane County Public Health.
For Jill Self, who has struggled with fentanyl addiction on and off for her whole life, finding treatment hasn’t always been easiest. A mother of four, the Covid pandemic and family stress pushed her back into active addiction.
“I was clean for several years,” she said. “But during the pandemic I was stuck at home with a new baby, in an abusive relationship and with no resources. It took me down a road where I started using substances again. I hated what my life was. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted.”
Then, she found Ideal Options, a low-barrier drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, with clinics in Eugene, Corvallis — and now, Springfield.
“I stumbled and fell a few times,” Self said. “But if it wasn’t for the support I felt here, I wouldn’t have been able to connect those dots so my transition to the community was smooth. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have made it. They’ve been a staple in helping me change my life.”
The new Springfield Ideal Option Clinic, located at 3831 Main St., was funded entirely through Measure 110 dollars.
M110 reclassified possession of small amounts of drugs as a civil violation and funds addiction treatment and harm-reduction efforts by reallocating tens of millions of dollars from the state’s cannabis tax. The landmark legislation made Oregon the first state in the country to decriminalize possession of small amounts of hard drugs and instead allows police to write low-level tickets for possession. The tickets can be waived if the recipient calls a hotline and gets a health assessment.
So far, it’s covered roughly $300M in grants for organizations offering services from housing to needle exchanges; OHA released a report last week saying it served over 60,000 people in recovery through September.
The new clinic is its second location in Lane County and is opening at a time of desperate need for expanded access to evidence-based treatment from experienced providers.
“There were times people would come into the Eugene office with tickets from riding EMS with no fare just to come in and get the help they needed,” said Marty Nelms, peer outreach specialist. “I’m from this area. I see the generational addiction.”
An estimated 61,000 people in Lane County with a substance use disorder need but haven’t received treatment in a specialty facility in the past year, experts say. And CDC data shows a 34% increase in deaths due to synthetic opioids across the state in 2022.
The new clinic expands access to in-person medication-assisted treatment for fentanyl, meth, heroin, alcohol and other substances.
Buprenorphine, sold under such brand names as Sublocade and Suboxone, is an opioid. It can be prescribed to treat pain, but is also effective in treating opioid addiction. For people who aren’t used to taking opioids, buprenorphine can produce a pleasurable high, and, like all opioids, it can slow a person’s breathing. But the risk of an overdose is much lower. For people who are already used to taking opioids, buprenorphine blunts the powerful cravings and pain of withdrawal.
For Self, the medication was the key to fighting her substance use disorder – it’s also just one of the many misconceptions she’s up against.
“It helped me detox; without that medication I don’t know if I would have made it,” she said. “Just because you’re taking it to stay clean doesn’t mean you’re using it. It’s been a staple in my recovery, helping me with cravings and withdrawal, much faster.”
Ideal Option’s 2021 Annual Patient Outcomes Report for Oregon shows fentanyl positive rates at enrollment were up by 85% displacing heroin positive rates which were down by 36% compared to 2020.
“These are my friends and neighbors, and I want them to know that the Ideal Option is here to serve them. Together we can really make a difference in the lives of the people in this community,” Nelms said.
Nelms works as a peer support specialist for Ideal Option. His work encompasses
a range of interactions between people who share similar experiences of mental health conditions and substance use disorders.
Having his own past with addiction and the criminal justice system, Nelms is ready to offer anything but judgment.
“So our mission is to serve the underserved communities in Springfield,” he said. “Our goal is to help people get their life back. That means reunite with their families and become stable members of the community. We’ll do whatever it takes to ensure the long-term success of our patients.”
Today, Self works as a family support specialist at St. Vincent DePaul’s unhoused shelter for families in Eugene.
“I’m not only getting to walk my own recovery, I’m getting to show others at the same time, how it can be done and that there’s hope,” she said. “And then help them find the same services that I’ve been offered.”
The clinic is open Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Patients can make an appointment by calling 1-877-522-1275 or visiting idealoption.com.
Most forms of insurance are accepted, including Medicare and Medicaid. Treatment for fentanyl, heroin, alcohol or other substances can begin within 1-3 business days.