Rural Oregon’s Opioid Epidemic Gives Rise to Roundtables in Coos and Josephine Counties

Contributed by: Stacy Michaelson | AOC Health & Human Services Policy Manager

October 4, 2016

The Grants Pass City Council Chambers was filled last Monday as the White House Rural Development Council and US Department of Ag joined together to convene a discussion on the opioid epidemic in rural Oregon. Led by USDA Rural Development State Director, Vickie Walker, roundtable participants included state health officials, local primary care providers, behavioral health providers, educators, and community leaders. Commissioner Keith Heck was in attendance representing Josephine County. Issues discussed included: the high reliance upon opioid pain medications (nearly 13,000,000 pills dispensed in the community in the past year), challenges with access to treatment providers and residential treatment beds, issues with Medicaid billing for treatment services, the economic and educational impact among children of parents suffering opioid addiction, the need for more care providers and possible incentive options, and the need for drug take-back programs.

Following last week’s two-hour discussion, there will be a full-day summit in Coos County later in October. Sponsored by Western Oregon Advanced Health, LLC., the summit will focus on reducing opioid use and circulation, improving addiction treatment access, incentivizing alternative pain management strategies,  and bolstering community engagement around the opioid epidemic.  A full agenda can be found at