Mental health advocates want full-time psychiatric crisis center in Jackson County

NAMI SO previously came out in opposition to the new Jackson County Jail proposal on grounds that it failed to meet the area's significant mental healthcare needs.

Posted: Feb 20, 2020 6:21 PM
Updated: Feb 20, 2020 6:24 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — A group of mental healthcare advocates that recently criticized the new Jackson County Jail proposal is lobbying for a round-the-clock psychiatric crisis center in the county to deal with the area's mounting mental health needs.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness Southern Oregon (NAMI SO) said it plans to address the Jackson County Commissioners at a public hearing on February 26. The organization said that it wants to collaborate with county agencies, coordinated care organizations, hospitals, and law enforcement to create the crisis center.

"We consider the psychiatric crisis center a lynchpin for the systemic reforms we are looking for in the local mental health system," NAMI SO said in a statement. "This is a facility to which people could be brought for emergency treatment and stabilization instead of jailing or hospitalizing them."

A resource like this would help reduce the need for new jail beds, the organization said, though it admitted that it would be necessary to have a new jail with a number of beds in line with the county's growing population.

"We want to do this whether the jail proposal as written makes it to the May ballot or not," said NAMI SO spokesperson Pam Ames. "These services are so important to the health and safety of people in our county that we can’t wait till after the jail is built to get started on establishing the crisis center."

RELATED: Jackson County Board of Commissioenrs approves first reading, takes next step in approving new jail

NAMI SO cited a Jefferson Public Radio story about a young woman who went to get help filling her prescription for psychiatric medication and was reportedly turned away by both Providence Hospital and Jackson County Mental Health because she had come to the "wrong door" before being referred to Columbia Care.

"Upon arrival, she was in a state of confusion because she had run out of medication," NAMI SO said. "In the same article, Jason Farris, a former Columbia Care employee states, 'The leaders in mental health in Jackson County need to work together to fix the gaps in the system.'"

According to the advocacy organization, the Eugene/Springfield Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Street (CAHOOTS) program boasts a 24/7 mobile crisis intervention team — as well as the motto "there is no wrong door" for help during a mental health crisis.

NAMI SO asked members of the community to come to the public hearing next Wednesday to weigh in on the proposal.

"Please be there to voice your opinion; it is essential for our democracy," the organization said.

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