Portland City Club Quashes Addiction Report Because 'Every Member of the Committee Was White'
Portland, Oregon, continues to suffer from some very public crises. Every day, residents are faced with homeless camps, folks suffering from mental health disorders, and rampant drug addiction. In fact, drug addiction has been a crisis in Portland for decades. Instead of facing these problems head-on, a prominent community leadership organization has rejected a report offering solutions to the addiction crisis — because the committee that created the report was all white.
The City Club of Portland commissioned a report on solutions to addiction via its Research Committee. Eric Fruits, Ph.D., is an economist living in Portland. In a post on Facebook, Dr. Fruits announced his resignation this week from that committee [edited for brevity]:
Until yesterday, I served on City Club's Research Board, where I was one of two advisers to the "Addictions Research Committee."
Yesterday, I resigned from the Research Board, in a large part because of City Club's handling of this research and its disrespect for the committee's work.
As always, there's a story behind the story.
About a year ago, City Club launched two research committees: One on Addictions and the other on "City Government & Equity."
Keep in mind, City Club research is citizen research. It is research done by City Club members who volunteer to research important issues facing our community. It's a unique approach that embodies the motto, "Good citizens are the riches of a city."
The Addictions committee launched around January of this year. For about six months, the committee met twice a week and interviewed more than 30 witnesses and reviewed more than 100 studies. Our witness list was a Who's Who of substance use researchers and policy wonks: medical researchers, treatment providers, public health officials, the Multnomah County District Attorney.
This kind of research is why I joined the Research Board in the first place. I learned so much about a topic that, otherwise, I wouldn't have the time or energy to research. More importantly, I changed my way of thinking about substance use disorder (especially that "substance use disorder" is more appropriate than "addiction.")
Toward the end of July, the committee submitted a draft report.
In October, Sam Metz, one of the committee members met with Lisa Watson, City Club's president. At the meeting Ms. Watson announced that the Board of Governors would not release the Addictions report.
The decision was not based on sloppy research, bad writing, or controversial conclusions. The decision was based entirely on the make-up of the committee itself.
Remember, the committee was formed in December and met for six months. At any point in those six months, the Board of Governors could have stepped in. But they didn't. Instead, they waited until after hundreds of hours of volunteer time was expended - time spent away from work and families. Then, unceremoniously dumped the report.
I along with some of the committee members met with a subset of the Board of Governors two weeks ago. The BOG members were dismissive of the committee members outrage at having their report killed simply because of the makeup of the committee - a makeup the committee itself had no control over.