A pile of nearly 1,000 shoes was created Saturday in Portland’s Shemanski Park as a crowd of over 1,000 turned out to protest Oregon’s lack of support for addiction treatment and to launch a new advocacy campaign called Oregon Recovers. Each shoe had the name of an Oregonian lost to addiction on its sole scribbled by a loved one.

The shoes will be dumped in lawmakers’ offices in Salem near the start of the legislative session. The campaign is designed to dramatically improve access to addiction, treatment and recovery services in Oregon, according to the group’s organizers.

A rally took place at the park, frequented by Portlander residents suffering from addiction; empty bottles and used needles were removed prior to the rally.

In lieu of a moment of silence for those honored by the shoes, the crowd broke into chants of “We demand change!”

Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D) kicked off the event in her role as emcee by declaring that she has been in long-term recovery for more than 40 years. Brent Canode, chair of Oregon Recovers followed by honoring those represented by the shoes with the following statement:

“Make no mistake about it, each shoe here represents a preventable death and a tragic failure of our system,” Canode said. “One of these shoes could have belonged to Oregon’s next poet laureate, or a social activist capable of bringing our community together, or a teacher who could have touched thousands of lives, or a doctor who could have advanced the science of our field.”

Rep. Knute Buehler , R-Bend, spoke at the rally, while Gov. Kate Brown had Judge Eric Bloch, chair of the state’s Alcohol & Drug Policy Commission read a letter of support on her behalf.

“It is with deep regret that I could not be with you today. However, please know that I stand in solidarity with you in the fight to prevent drug abuse and expand access to addiction treatment and recovery services throughout Oregon.” Brown wrote in her letter.

Buehler told the crowd, “It’s time to turn it around. It’s time to stop the suffering. And by this event today, we are taking the first step to Oregon recovering.”

The coalition is being directed by Mike Marshall, who led Oregon’s successful marriage equality campaign and Gov. John Kitzhaber’s successful re-election campaign. Marshall is the former executive director of the City Club of Portland.

Marshall began his remarks by sharing that he was also in long-term recovery and had not had a drink or drug since January 29th, 2008. He explained the mission of Oregon Recovers and made the following statement regarding the organizations first and highest priority:

“Oregon Recovers will demand of the Governor and/or legislature that they finally empower and resource the state Alcohol & Drug Policy Commission so that the Commission can finally do what they were created to do: create a comprehensive, integrated plan that recognizes that addiction is chronic, progressive disease. “

Other speakers included:

• Jessica Vega Pederson, Multnomah County Commissioner

• Loretta Smith, Multnomah County Commissioner

• Eric Bloch (Multnomah County Judge; Chair, Oregon Alcohol & Drug Policy Commission)

• Senator Lew Frederick (D-Portland)

• William Moyer (national recovery leader; bestselling author; son of journalist Bill Moyer).

• Rep. Allisa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland)

• Monta Knudson, Bridges to Change

• Linda Hudson, Central City Concern

• Onesha Cohran-Dumas, OHSU

• Tony Vezina, 4th Dimension Recovery Center

• Shyra Wade, Native American Rehabilitation Association

• Alison Mann, Clackamas County mom

• Talie W., Best Care Treatment Services, Redmond

Founding sponsors of the 5-year campaign include some of the top health organizations in the state:

• Addiction Counselor Certification Board of Oregon (ACCBO)

• Kaiser Permanente

• African American Behavioral Healthcare & Addiction Treatment Coalition,

• Oregon Prevention, Education & Recovery Association (OPERA)

• Northwest Instituto Latino de Adicciones.

• Miracles Club

• The Alano Club of Portland

• 4th Dimension Recovery Center

• StayClean

• Bridges to Change

• CODA: Health, Community, Recovery

• Empowerment Clinic

• Trillium Family Services

In Oregon, about 1 in 10 people are addicted to drugs or alcohol, according to a recent report by the nonprofit Mental Health America. Taxpayers are paying for the state’s high addiction rate, losing roughly $6 billion a year because of it. For comparison, that’s about 10 times as much as Oregon collects each year in lottery ticket sales.

Oregon Recovers is an inclusive statewide coalition comprised of people in recovery – and their friends and family – uniting to transform Oregon health care to ensure world-class prevention, treatment and recovery support services for Oregonians suffering from the disease of addiction. Oregon Recovers’ mission for the next five years is to move Oregon from last to first in access to addiction treatment services.