Pamplin Media Group – Forum Discusses Access to East County Mental Health Resources

Residents and elected officials discuss gaps in local mental health resources

A group of residents, elected officials and mental health experts met on Friday, September 30 to discuss issues regarding mental health resources in East County.

The discussion was moderated by Olivia Huerta, East County resident and behavioral health care coordinator for Central City Concern.

Huerta said she felt compelled to open up a conversation about mental health after seeing how often people with mental health issues fall through the cracks.

“Our system is so broken in Oregon that we can completely dismantle it, start over, and become a model for the rest of our nation,” Huerta said.

The discussion brought together local elected officials and leaders, including Troutdale Mayor Randy Lauer, Rep. Zach Hudson, Fairview Councilwoman Wendy Lawton, Wood Village Councilman Jairo Rios-Campos, Geoff Kenway of Kenway Benefits Group and Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran.

Conversations ranged from concerns about the lack of a centralized mental health hotline, declining levels of mental health professionals, transitional housing and wrap-around services for the county homeless community. ‘East and a host of other problems.

“It’s inspiring to come together with people who know so much about the community and who care so deeply and can see the disconnects in our systems,” Meieran said.

Although each speaker had their own grievances about the state of local mental health resources, everyone agreed that major work needed to be done to strengthen existing resources and develop needed resources in the community.

“In the small towns of East County, we have only limited capacity and power, so I was glad we had state and county officials here, because they hold the key to solving the issues around mental health services here,” Lauer said. “We can have conversations and plan events all the time, but unless we have this partnership with health services and funding mechanisms through the state, there’s not much we can do. It says a lot about the fact that we have multiple levels of government here today.”

While Huerta hopes to have more conversations about mental health, she’s also pushing to make sure action is spurred by those conversations and meetings.

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