mental health

What does Deschutes County need to offer good mental health care? It needs a place to take people who don’t need to go to jail or the emergency room but are in crisis. It’s getting it this spring in the form of the Deschutes County Stabilization Center.

But before the center opens, it faces a funding gap. It only will be able to accept people at certain times of the day — not 24/7. And as you might guess, mental health crises don’t only happen during office hours. Who is going to step up and fill the gap?

The goal of the center is to get people out of their current crisis and give them resources so they don’t return to it, according to Holly Harris, program manager at Deschutes County Health Services. And it will provide those services in a better way than they are now — saving money.

A police officer or a deputy can be tied up for hours if they take someone in a mental health crisis to the emergency room. Law enforcement will be able to quickly get back to work if they can directly transfer someone to mental health professionals at the stabilization center. Patients could also walk in or call and ask for help. At the center, individuals or families in crisis will be able to meet with a master’s level therapist and get assessed for what services they need, Harris told us. They will get help navigating the mental health system and things like food boxes, housing referrals and peer support.

Mental health calls have climbed as the county’s population has grown. For instance, the Bend police had just over 650 such calls in 2010. The calls were up to more than 1,980 in 2019.

Many organizations have pitched in time and money to get the stabilization center off the ground. County commissioners visited similar facilities. Pacific Source has chipped in more than $500,000. The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has come in with a bit more than that, including some in-kind contributions. The Bend Police Department is committed to $70,000. There are also grants worth millions and a commitment from the Central Oregon Health Council for more than $500,000 for one year.

It would take another $470,000 to operate the center 24/7 from when it opens through April 2021. After April 2021 — when the funding from the Central Oregon Health Council is scheduled to end — it would take another $1.1 million. Who is going to step up and fill the gap?

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