Albertina Kerr expands its Gresham campus

Gresham Outlook, Sept. 19, 2014

New intensive treatment group home at the Albertina Kerr campus on 162nd Avenue

New intensive treatment group home at the Albertina Kerr campus on 162nd Avenue

Kids who have a mental health crisis get critical help through Albertina Kerr Centers, and the need is great.

The nonprofit organization’s campus at Northeast 162nd Avenue and Glisan Street serves a vital function by providing emergency psychiatric care for children.

It is safe, temporary housing and treatment for kids in crisis.

The need is dire. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for children under the age of 18, according to Christopher Krenk, CEO of the nonprofit group, and many Oregon families face the crisis of a child who is mentally ill or going through a mental health issue.

Some families must deal with a child who is developmentally disabled, which can at times be overwhelming.

But some children need long-term care, sometimes months at a time, which the campus also provides.

Many agencies work to meet the needs of kids with mental health problems, Krenk said, but the Albertina Kerr facility in Rockwood is the only program of its type in the state that provides treatment for young people with both developmental disabilities and a mental health crisis.

Kids admitted for crisis intervention typically stay for only two or three weeks, but they get thoroughly evaluated and guided to treatment programs.

“Kerr works to stabilize children in crisis, provide effective mental health treatment and ultimately return the child to their home or a less intense level of care,” the organization’s website states.

Albertina Kerr has been at the 162nd Avenue location in one form or another for the past 100 years, and with an ongoing capital fundraising campaign that began in 2012, the campus is undergoing an explosive expansion with the renovation of older buildings on the campus’ 10 acres and building a new six-bedroom group home with a homey atmosphere.

The Intensive Treatment Group Home, which houses children needing long-term care, will be finished by the end of the year, replacing an aging structure on the grounds that will be demolished.

Its name belies the residential feel, with large windows, modern kitchen and laundry facilities. Safety is paramount, Albertina spokeswoman Amy Miner said as she walked past men working on the final touches, so there are no hanging light fixtures and each room has built-in shelves and dressers. The walls also have a layer of plywood behind the gypsum board.  The room can support two people.

CEO Chris Krenk tours the kitchen of an intensive treatment group home in Gresham

CEO Chris Krenk tours the kitchen of an intensive treatment group home in Gresham

“All the features have to be safe,” she said. “It’s a safe environment, but it still feels like home.”

As Miner walked past children on swings on the playground and playing ball in a field, she noted they don’t seem any different from any other children.

“Although they have challenges, they’re just kids,” she said. “They come from all over Oregon and southern Washington. Some from homes, some from foster homes, but with an important emergency. We look at their medication and overall systems and give them the right level of support.”

The campus also has seen the expansion of its Crisis Psychiatric Care Building, where families also receive counseling and interact with the kids, and has added a new outside children’s play area as well as renovating its meeting and conference building.

More funding is needed, but with all the expansion and construction, Miner said the primary focus is the children.

“We are only one of two facilities in the state — there is a much greater need — to extend crisis psychiatric care, family and individual therapy.

“Now we’ll be able to serve 30 percent more kids,” he said.

Krenk said that will bring the number of people who come through all Kerr’s facilities to about 1,000 per year, but he said that is still not enough to meet the needs of all children in the state facing a mental health crisis.

“Last year we had to turn away about half of those seeking crisis psychiatric care,” he said.

As fundraising continues, also scheduled for renovation is the stately-looking Louise House building, completed in 1927. The building looks large from the front, Miner said, but is somewhat U-shaped, and the back area will be filled in with an additional 6,000 square feet of space.

Albertina has offices throughout the Willamette Valley, but the extra space after the Louise Building is finished will allow the nonprofit organization to centralize in one location “leading practitioners in children’s mental health with expertise to handle most acute and complex conditions,” according to the literature.

To learn how to contribute to the building efforts at Albertina Kerr or to volunteer, go to

Wide array of services

Albertina Kerr offers a wide range of services for children, families and adults facing mental health challenges and developmental disabilities throughout this area. Its program include:

  • Youth and Family Services. Programs, resources and services for children with developmental disabilities and mental health and behavioral challenges and support for their families.
  • Crisis Psychiatric Care. Short-term residential care and 24-hour access to mental health professionals for children with urgent mental health crises.
  • Family Resource Center. A place for families in our community raising a child with mental health and behavioral challenges to find support, answers to questions and gather for activities and events.
  • Foster Care. Safe and caring homes for foster children with mental health challenges.
  • Intensive-Community Based Treatment. Services for children ages 3 to 17 at risk of being unable to stay in their home or in school due to mental health challenges.
  • Intensive Treatment Program. A safe and secure treatment program for youth with developmental disabilities, many of whom also have mental health challenges.
  • Kerr Early Childhood Outpatient Services. Assistance for pre-school children with behavioral challenges and their families.
  • Outpatient Services Mental Health. Services for children, youth, and their families provided in community settings.
  • Youth Group Homes. Fifteen group homes provide around-the-clock support and life skills training for youths ages 7 to 18 with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges.
  • Children’s Developmental Health Services. Provides specialized, team-based developmental care.