‘We are failing our communities’ Oregon leaders convene for behavioral health forum

Jami Seymour and Jenna Demle

15 minutes ago

Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Maylan, October 2019 (KOIN, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon’s behavioral health crisis is reaching every corner of the state. Now, thanks to lobbying from residents and neighborhood associations who see the impacts every day, leaders at all levels are working together to find ways to solve the problem.

This is a crisis felt across the province, and one that particularly hits the McMurtry family, whose son, Kenny, has been struggling with mental illness and mental health issues for years and has been trying to find reliable and ongoing support. They thought they had the answer after being approached by the Multnomah County Early Assessment and Assistance Alliance.

“This program was designed and funded solely to provide two years of support. What a fool to waste that investment without having something to offer next time.” Kenny Your mother, Christy McMurtry, said. “This was the first crack he tripped over.”

After further hardship, he became homeless for the past few years and died of an overdose almost two weeks ago, days before his 34th birthday. It’s stories like theirs, as neighbors bring together city, county, state and federal leaders across jurisdictions to hold a behavioral health forum Monday, calling for a desperate push for change. I’m urging you.

“This is not a single jurisdiction issue. People think cities are responsible for everything, but a lot of things regarding behavioral health are in the county, state, and federal government. We wanted to bring people together at all levels and we wanted to hear each other’s opinions,” said David Dixon of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, an organizer of the forum. “We encounter people on the streets every day as we leave our homes and businesses. It is extremely unfortunate to see so many tragedies happening on our streets. ”

Thoroughly improving behavioral health in Oregon, which ranks near the bottom in the nation for treatment, requires action on many fronts, from housing to addiction services. One of the issues raised by many at Monday night’s forum revolved around compassion and changing the way people in need are civilly executed.

“We don’t feel comfortable detaining people because we can’t say they’re in imminent danger of harm to themselves or others. That’s too high of a standard,” Port said. said state Rep. Maxine Dexter, R-Rand. “By not changing this law, we are doing a disservice to our communities.”

During the discussion, many learned that changing that particular issue needed to be done at the state level. But as the problem evolves, additional services, such as treatment and housing, will likely come from other levels, such as Multnomah County.

“We need treatment, but we don’t need treatment if there’s no place for people to go after treatment, because otherwise they’re going to keep riding their bikes to ambulances and on the road,” Multnomah said. said Commissioner Sharon Meylan. “Behavioral health professionals need to drive the work, and elected leaders need to put the money behind it and help make it happen.”

As for what the county can do in its current position, she went on to say: We need a county plan. There’s work to be done on that. I started it, but it got interrupted due to the coronavirus, but I’d like to get back to it and finish it. ”

While some changes, such as the creation of detox and non-therapeutic sobriety centers, may be possible in the short term with creative location and staffing, state-wide systems for behavioral health Other solutions, such as establishing a , require a lot of work and collaboration and can take years. road.

KOIN 6 will continue to follow all efforts going forward.

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