Oregon experts discuss alcohol use disorder, care access and more in KATU town hall
Main image, left to right: Dr. James Polo, executive medical director at Regence BlueCross and BlueShield of Oregon; Dr. Tom Jeanne, deputy state health officer and epidemiologist; Steve Dunn, KATU anchor and facilitator; O’Nesha Cochran, community liaison for The Miracles Club; Tony Veniza, executive director of 4th & Dimension Recovery Center
The past few years have been filled with historic and stressful events, including COVID-19, regional wildfires, and economic uncertainty, to name just a few. During difficult times like these, many people turn to alcohol to help cope.
In Oregon, the statistics are alarming when it comes to alcohol consumption. Oregonians drink on average 669 alcoholic drinks per year, according to a study from DrugAbuse.com. The Oregon Health Authority reports that 2,000 Oregonians die from alcohol-related causes every year–three times the number of people who die from other drug overdoses. Despite alcohol being one of Oregon’s deadliest addictions, a federal survey shows our state ranks 50th nationally when it comes to access to addiction treatment.
In response to this growing concern, KATU-TV hosted a town hall sponsored by Regence with panelists Dr. James Polo, executive medical director at Regence BlueCross and BlueShield of Oregon; Tony Veniza, executive director of 4th & Dimension Recovery Center; Dr. Tom Jeanne, deputy state health officer and epidemiologist; and O’Nesha Cochran, community liaison for The Miracles Club.
The panel covered a wide range of topics including how to access treatment, barriers to care, the dangers of drinking alcohol, and the impact alcohol has on communities of color as well as youth. You can watch the full town hall by clicking the image below.
“The pandemic has taught us that we have some challenges in making sure that we take care of all communities. Do our systems of services and treatment, is it equitably available to everybody?” reflects Polo.
Access to services is an ongoing problem in Oregon
The town hall also featured audience members with lived experiences of alcohol abuse. One of the common frustrations they brought up was accessing treatment. “A recent report done by the Oregon Health and Science University looking at our substance use disorder treatment capacity determined that we’re about 50% under capacity of what we need in terms for prevention, treatment, and recovery services to address this issue,” said Veniza.
Despite the challenges, there is hope. Addiction is not a problem that can be fixed in a day, but you can do something about it every day. Dr. Polo reminds people that addiction recovery, including alcohol addiction, is a process. “Taking it a step at a time. You can’t have this big audacious goal to just be in total recovery in one day. You’ve got to really take it a step at a time,” said Polo.
We’re here to help
Regence is committed to doing our part in helping members who are struggling with substance use disorder. In 2020, Regence made naloxone, a medication that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, more accessible to members by reducing cost barriers.
Regence has also added virtual mental health and addiction treatment services to our network including Boulder Care. Boulder Care’s unique model offers virtual care with tools available 24/7 nationwide, addressing traditional barriers to treatment caused by geography and time. To see what is covered in your plan, call the number on the back of your ID cards to speak with one of our customer service professionals, who can help connect you to the care you need.