I have met with a number of organizations to present and discuss the key findings in the HSRI report as well as next steps. As I highlighted in my last newsletter, I testified about the report’s findings, as well as links between the report’s recommendations and legislative action during the 2019 Legislative Session, before both the House and Senate Health Care Committees in Salem in late September. I have also participated in the Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) Regional Behavioral Health Collaborative process, where I have focused on encouraging OHA to use the results of the report as they establish the framework for their regional process. I look forward to additional opportunities to share information from the report.
I am also working on a few discrete projects that have the potential to improve aspects of the mental health system. For example, I am participating in a workgroup focused on amending current state laws related to civil commitment (compelling a person to enter mental health treatment). The workgroup is proposing a bill for consideration by the Legislature during the 2019 session. As another example, I am participating in a group that is developing a pilot project in Multnomah County to divert people to treatment rather than jail if they are experiencing mental illness and are arrested for certain nonviolent crimes. Diversion to treatment can help people struggling with mental illness get the help they need, while also saving money in our jail system. This pilot is based on the existing Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, which successfully diverts people with low-level drug offenses from jail to treatment, with good results.
Finally, the HSRI report made a number of recommendations for potential next steps. Right now we are finalizing proposals for (1) the development of an implementation team and framework to assess, prioritize, and advance the report’s recommendations; and (2) further research and analysis of behavioral health funding in Multnomah County,to improve transparency, better understand the relationship between funding and service user outcomes and improve system transformation efforts. These should be finalized within the next month, and I look forward to these next phases.
This past month I participated in a new Regional Behavioral Health Collaborative effort convened by the Oregon Health Authority, where I presented the results of the study. I also testified before state House and Senate Health Care committees on the study’s findings, and I have briefed a number of advocacy and community groups.
I am working on pursuing immediate and short-term actions -- for example, working internally on exploring the addition of a lived experience leadership position within Multnomah County Mental Health and Addiction Services -- while we develop a longer-term structure and plan for sorting through, prioritizing, and implementing other recommendations from the report.
I will continue to keep you posted as to what is happening with this process
-Commissioner Sharon Meieran