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Recently, I visited the Coos Bay area for the first time in years. I was especially impressed with Bay Area First Step Treatment Program (BAFS), a non-profit organization started in 1994 as a halfway house. It has expanded its functions into an inclusive program for all aspects of addiction from treatment, to mentoring, to assimilation. It has its own education component to certify lay counselors who can support others. Its uses a peer to peer concept. Addicts in recovery become the perfect role models to accomplish successful treatment.

I was surprised, visiting friends and colleagues, how few really knew about BAFS, but it has a statewide reputation as an innovative, accomplished operation to be copied by other programs. It has a progressive Board of Directors, Director and Staff with vision and dedication.

The drug problem is escalating worldwide, knows no social boundaries, and does not discriminate. In Oregon, 2016, 312 people died due to opioid overdose. Until 2012, Oregon rated one of the highest opioid abuse areas in the nation but now the rate is declining: Oregon deaths are at 7.6 per 100,000 populations whereas the nation as a whole is 13.3 per 100,000. The bad news is that drug abuse is rising. Other drugs, like methamphetamines and heroin are not declining although recent studies show decreased first-time users. The discrepancy appears to be due to hard core users. Ignoring those with active addiction will only propagate increased use.

The Rand Corporation has studied the role of interdiction compared to active drug treatment and found it is seven times more cost effective to treat than remove the supply. Perception that treatment works is poorly perceived in general. It does work. Not all addicts treated are successful but many are and the more understanding and acceptance the public has about treatment, the more success can be achieved. Recovering addicts are not a burden, they are assets to any community.

This community can be proud of Bay Area First Step. This asset is your asset.

You can help. Be aware of this wonderful organization and appreciate the work they are doing. Find out all you can and spread the word. It is our best chance to affect drug ravage and return valuable members to our society.

Robert Bolin

La Grande

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