The rates of children entering the foster care system in Douglas County and the rest of southern Oregon are skyrocketing, despite similar rates plummeting across the state. The above charts represent the total number of children in care every quarter since 2006. Every year, a new group of children enter the system, adding to the number of children who are still in foster care.
The number of children who have entered the child welfare system in Douglas County alone has increased from 41 children in 2013 to 204 children so far this year. That’s a 398 percent increase in less than five years. For Lisa Hubbard, the clinical director at Adapt, parental drug addiction "has everything to do with it."
The Interstate 5 freeway serves as the main artery for drug traffickers and dealers who have connections to methamphetamine and opioid supplies in Mexico. Oregon counties located along the freeway, from the southwest to northwest regions, are designated high-intensity drug trafficking areas by law enforcement agencies.
Methamphetamine has been a problem in Oregon for several years and continues to increase in use. The opioid epidemic is just now reaching the same levels as methamphetamine, but it poses greater risks. For one, opioid addiction is harder to kick; the withdrawal symptoms are more physical and can be life-threatening. Overdosing on opioids can also be more deadly. About three Oregonians die every week from prescription opioid overdose, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
Heavily forested southern Oregon counties are made up of small rural towns. There are several nonprofits and medical agencies providing drug treatment services, but most of them are concentrated in larger cities like Roseburg and Medford. People fighting drug addiction in smaller satellite towns need a car to get help. Nonprofit workers say transportation is a significant barrier for rural residents fighting drug addiction.
As a result, southern Oregon — including Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties — has the highest rate of drug arrests related to methamphetamine and opioid possession.
Opioid addicts have to keep using to prevent themselves from getting physically sick or possibly dying. When getting high becomes a necessity, other parts of their lives — their jobs, their homes, their children — fall by the wayside.