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Don Calder has been clean and sober for years, but he's concerned about the fate of others who are trying to rid themselves of dependency on drugs or alcohol.

He believes the state should budget more money for dependency treatment and the rehabilitation of people who are in the early stages of recovery.

Calder and another recovering addict, Katherine Hayes, both of La Grande, are doing more than worrying and complaining — they've put their efforts into helping to organize a statewide lobbying group, Recovery Oregon.

The organization, started only a few months ago, has about 50 members throughout the state and six or seven in Union County, Calder said.

"A lot of money is being spent to put addicts in jail," said Calder, a custodian at Eastern Oregon University. "We'd like to see more money going to treatment."

Calder and Hayes, a social worker with the State of Oregon, say that statistics show that treatment can be more effective than incarceration, but "that's not accepted at the legislative level."

Recovery Oregon hopes to change that perception, they said.

One of the first major efforts of Recovery Oregon may be an initiative to put a beer and wine tax measure on the ballot. Under the Recovery Oregon idea, the tax would be earmarked for treatment.

David Still, chief executive officer of the Center For Human Development, has been a supporter of an increased beer and wine tax. He said the existing tax has been in place for more than 25 years, and during that time the state's population has grown, along with the price of beer and wine.

Funds for rehabilitation have not kept pace, he said.

Union County will lose about $10,000 in state funds for treatment if the budget approved in the Legislature's special session stands, Still said.

The county receives between $45,000 and $60,000 yearly in direct state aid.

"The Legislature plans to cut $2.8 million (statewide) this year," he said.

"We don't have — we've never had — the luxury to put together a good program. We stretch our resources as far as they can go," he said.

Still said he believes a statewide group that lobbies the Legislature for treatment funds will have a greater impact than the efforts of treatment professionals.

"When I go to the Legislature, they think I just want more dollars," he said.

Those interested in joining Recovery Oregon may call Hayes at 963-3940, ext. 22, or Calder at 962-3073.

— Alice Perry Linker

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