City, County host behavioral health dialogue

News Article

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury hosted the first of two behavioral health dialogues on Friday, Sept. 9. 

They were joined legislators, behavioral health experts and consumers to discuss options to improve Portland and Oregon’s behavioral health crisis.

A second dialogue will be broadcast online on Tuesday, Sept. 27, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. A link to stream will be posted before the event.

Questions or comments can be submitted prior to the meetings through an online form. Questions will be incorporated into the conversation as we can accommodate.

The Oregon Legislature has made a number of new investments in recent years to strengthen behavioral health services across the state. Those efforts include funding for new residential treatment facilities and Certified Behavioral Health Clinics; financial support for implementing statewide ballot Measure 110; and additional resources for counties to expand their community restoration for individuals unable to aid and assist in their own defense.

The dialogues convened by the Mayor and County Chair look to build on this momentum by bringing together consumers, practitioners, healthcare leaders, and state lawmakers. Dialogue participants will use the time to discuss the progress that has been made and potential solutions to help address the remaining challenges to the shared state and local behavioral crisis response system.

“Individuals experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis deserve easy, equitable access to trauma-informed programs that offer treatment, stability and hope,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. “Our hope is these forums serve as a point of collaboration and action so that we can all take full advantage of the promising investments being made in our care and crisis response systems at both the state and local levels."

In addition to new state funding, voters in the tri-county region passed the historic $2.4 billion Supportive Housing Services measure in 2020 to address chronic and short-term homelessness. Funding from the measure —spread over 10 years and first made available in July 2021 —is being used to support individuals living with a mental health diagnosis and substance use disorder by connecting them to stable permanent housing and behavioral health services, preventing them from entering a crisis in the first place.

“Earlier this year, I made a public plea to Oregon lawmakers asking them to make mental health program reform a top priority in next year’s state legislative session,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.“ As the legislative season approaches, Chair Kafoury and I are doubling down. Fentanyl-related deaths are rising out of control, with more people dying from a drug-related problems than gun violence and auto-crashes combined. It is incredibly concerning for all of us when we encounter someone on our streets experiencing a mental and behavior health crisis. This extends way past Portland to  other cities in Oregon who are experiencing the same crises. This is not an issue cities need to deal with on their own, we must work together at every level of government to make progress.”