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A New Approach to Mental Health

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. – For four months, the dormitory at the Three Bridges program has been Preston Helgesen’s home and safe haven.

“I take medication for the voices,” said Preston. “I hear it constantly. It’s, like, a struggle.”

At 23 years old, Preston is trying to start a new life, along with 11 others suffering from similar mental conditions.

“Other people like this would be homeless, living under bridges, or ending up committing crimes and being in the criminal justice system,” said Bob Lieberman, CEO of Kairos and head of the Three Bridges Program.

For these young adults, there’s no other place like this. Three Bridges is a nonprofit program created in partnership with the state. Most kids with symptoms this severe would be in a hospital or state institution. These kids get structure and immediate attention, along with the freedom to go out into the community and at a fraction of the cost.

“The cost of this program in terms of the general fund dollars to the state is significantly less than what the state hospital would be,” said Lieberman. “Probably about 30-40 percent of what it would cost at the state hospital.”

And this is just one part of a big push for mental health.

Southern Oregon is applying to become part of a statewide program called EASA, or Early Assessment and Support Alliance. The program identifies psychosis early on, making recovery a more attainable goal.

“For young adults who come into this program, if they have the early symptoms of psychosis, we can connect with the EASA program and help move them out of the institutional setting and back into their home community more quickly,” said Lieberman.

That application hangs in limbo, but Lieberman says his program is quickly becoming a model nationwide, and having both would be even better.

And while there aren’t many out there like Preston, having the right treatment, he says, has finally given him control over his life.

“I see myself getting a job in the future, working, and possibly going to school,” said Preston.