Multnomah County’s first-of-its-kind Behavioral Health Resource Center gained attention statewide and nationally on April 12, as U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici personally presented Chair Deborah Kafoury with $2.67 million in federal funding to support the program’s ongoing development.
“There are many projects that are going on, but I don’t think there’s a single one that I can point to that is such a significant substantial new effort as a project that Chair Deborah Kafoury has been driving through the last three years,” said Sen. Merkley.
The Resource Center is expected to open this fall on S.W. Park Avenue, thanks to timely planning that began before the COVID-19 pandemic. The center will serve people experiencing chronic homelessness, providing peer-led behavioral health services at a day center, along with transitional housing and dozens of new shelter beds.
The building’s outdoor plaza will be a key piece in forming a safe and healing environment for people receiving services at the Resource Center.
“Thanks to their leadership,” Chair Kafoury said of the Congress members, “we were able to obtain significant and crucial financial resources to help open our plaza, which is an integral part of the functionality of the BHRC.
The building’s planned 6,000-square-foot outdoor area will serve as a plaza that will be accessed through the Day Center will serve as a space where individuals can spend time with their pets, socialize with each other, or simply get a breath of fresh air in a safe environment within downtown Portland.
“We really saw it as part of the healing to have a place that had the ability for people to be in calm space adjacent to the health services provided,” said Rep. Bonamici.
“Some have difficulty within the four walls of a room,” Chair Kafoury said, noting that having a plaza will make the Behavioral Health Resource Center more welcoming for more people in need.
Rep. Bonamici and Sen. Merkley presented the funds to Chair Kafoury and Behavioral Health Resource Center health leaders in the form of a giant check– a visual exclamation point on the federal allocation that was also supported by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer.
Merkley and Bonamici also joined County leaders for a tour and roundtable discussion on how the Center will provide peer-led, culturally responsive and trauma-informed care to people experiencing homelessness with behavioral health issues in downtown Portland.
“We want to take a moment to be thankful for your support and advocacy,” said Health Department Director Ebony Clarke.
Deandre Kenyanjui, coordinator for the County's Office of Consumer Engagement, said work to build the Resource Center started in the community, meeting and listening to community partners and people with lived experience of homelessness and behavioral health issues.
“What we’ve done is create a pathway with a low access point,” said Dr. Christa Jones, senior manager for the Community Mental Health Program in the Behavioral Health Division.
The Resource Center will offer a drop-in day center on the first two floors, where individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders who are experiencing homelessness can walk in and use laundry machines, take showers, eat meals, and find support for basic healthcare, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, including referrals and peer-support.
The third floor will have 33 shelter beds, and the fourth floor will have 19 transitional “bridge” housing beds, serving individuals with behavioral health issues who have experienced difficulty accessing services.
The day center is set to open this fall. The shelter bed and bridge housing on the third and fourth floors are set to open in 2023.