An increasingly visible face in local drug addiction policy discussions made an appearance with Gov. Kate Brown last week for a ceremonial bill signing at the state Capitol.
Kerry Strickland, a Knappa mother whose son died of a heroin overdose, watched as Brown signed a new law that allows for quicker access to Naloxone — a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. After the signing, Strickland attended the first meeting of Brown’s opioid task force.
Strickland, who founded Jordan’s Hope for Recovery, said the signing and meeting signaled a good start as Oregon attempts to fight an epidemic that has led to thousands of deaths in the state.
“They don’t have a plan yet, but they have an idea about the direction they’re going in,” Strickland said.
Strickland founded Jordan’s Hope after her 24-year-old son, the nonprofit organization’s namesake, died in 2015. Jordan began taking painkillers after a high school sports injury. He eventually developed a heroin addiction despite growing up in a sober household with a mother who had not consumed alcohol or other substances for nearly 30 years.
Strickland’s organization seeks to connect addicts with treatment resources, conduct outreach programs and advocate for addiction prevention policies. Nearly 20 months after the organization was founded, Strickland’s connections include various national and state officials such as U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, and Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.
Opportunities for political advocacy came to Strickland as she was in the early stages of grieving her son’s death. Around the same time she founded Jordan’s Hope, Strickland was asked to sit on a number of panels, including some organized by Wyden.
“That kind of snowballed into my political arena,” she said. “I have a personal story and I talk a lot. I have a lot of thoughts.”
In July, Strickland participated in a work session with the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners in which she advocated for a pilot needle exchange program. Commissioners unanimously approved the program the following month.
Her increasing political voice eventually led to the governor’s office inviting her to the Sept. 19 events in Salem.
“We’ve been out there telling my story,” Strickland said. “It puts a face to it. If something comes to me and I agree with it, I’ll say something.”
Strickland said she was encouraged by the task force’s diversity of expertise — lawmakers, doctors and medical professionals. Still, though, Strickland and her organization plan to continue pushing for additional resources and treatment that could curb the opioid epidemic.
“We didn’t get here overnight,” she said. “We’re not going to get out of it overnight either.”