November 4, 2019

More than a dozen representatives from mental health and addiction recovery nonprofits gathered in downtown Portland Oct. 31 to review preliminary designs for a Behavioral Health Resource Center in downtown Portland.

Barb Ranish, left, along with Mario Odighienwa and Jason Renaud offer feedback on the design on a downtown behavioral health resource center

“We’re here to make sure that whatever we develop supports services critical to the community,” project manager Brett Taute told the group.

Architects Michael Miller and Corey Morris presented sketches of the two-story day center and two floors of emergency and transitional housing. The designs included sprawling open living spaces, central staff desks, all-gender bathrooms and an enclosed patio. They asked the group for feedback. 

Make sure the elevator can accommodate a stretcher, offered Jason Renaud, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Portland.

Make sure all spaces are wheelchair accessible, said Trent Gay, a career coach with a Home for Everyone.

Go beyond the minimum building standards required under the Americans with Disability Act, suggested Barb Rainish, a local advocate active on community boards.

Reserve space for general purpose rooms so recovery groups can hold meetings, said Lynn Smith-Stott, supervisor of the Office of Consumer Engagement for Multnomah County’s Mental Health and Addiction Services Division.

“Your recommendations are so helpful,” said Christa Jones, the stakeholder liaison and a manager on the project. “We hope we are keeping our end of the bargain, in terms of transparency and access to information. And we hope you see the recommendations reflected in our progress.”

It was the fifth time the peer stakeholder group has met to discuss the project. The group will continue to meet regularly until the Center is complete and its members could potentially serve as members of the Center’s ongoing advisory council.

Stakeholder liaison Christa Jones, left, and coordinator in the Office of Consumer Engagement Deandre Kenyanjui facilitate meetings for the Multnomah County Mental Health and Addiction Services

“People are dying every single day and that’s why I take this so seriously,” said group member Deandre Kenyanjui, coordinator in the Office of Consumer Engagement for Multnomah County Mental Health and Addiction Services. “There was no place like this when I was trying to get myself together. So it’s important this work is done the right way. That’s why it’s important that you guys are here.” 

The group includes representatives from peer support programs such as the North Star Clubhouse and Bridges to Change, from nonprofit providers including Central City concern and Transition Projects, and government agencies including the Portland Police and Multnomah County. 

Kelly Fitzpatrick, a recovery mentor and risk case manager for Adult Protective Services at Multnomah County said she is part of the group because she wants to invest in a safety net that reaches everyone.

“We do not have a safety net for our folks,” she said. “The people are closest to my heart and part of my community. I really want to be part of this process.”

Lynn Smith-Stott, a long-term consumer of mental health and addiction services, was new to the group. She said she came to listen and learn. 

Smith-Stott was, until this week, quality management supervisor for Multnomah County’s Mental Health and Addiction Services Division. Friday she assumed a new role as supervisor of the Office of Consumer Engagement. The appointment fulfills a recommendation from the 2018 Multnomah County Mental Health System Analysis — an exhaustive review of county mental health services — to create a leadership position within the Division for a person with lived experience.

Emily Rochon, from the Portland Police Bureau service coordination team, said she wants to be part of the solution. “We all know there are gaps in the system,” she said. “I want to be part of anything that can help with safety and the intersection of law enforcement and people in crisis.”