Dear Deborah Kafoury: Here’s an idea for that $28 million

The following is an email sent July 17, 2015 from Marian Drake to Multnomah County Commission Chair Deborah Kafoury, in response to the newsletter reprinted below.

July 17, 2015

Thank you Madam Chair, for your newsletters.

Regarding your paragraph in your newsletter,  The legislature also invested $28 million for mental health services, including jail diversion, crisis services and rental assistance for those with severe mental illness,” I certainly hope that the many drop in centers will be restored in Multnomah County.  I once worked in the Unity, Inc., drop in center, after I’d been a participant/client at that center which was called The Mezz.  The Mezz originally had 12 counselors, an art room with two certified Art Therapists, a Recreation Therapist, a piano and several guitars for people to use, trips to the beach and camping,  various art and performance events, and even having client art shows in community galleries.  More than once, we had police officers (we required they come in civilian dress) come to confer with us in a group setting. There was group therapy in areas such as Communication, Medication Management, and much more. There were also consumer-created and led groups, including a Schizophrenia Support Group and a Political Awareness and Action Group.

Before Cascadia took over Unity, Inc., The Mezz affiliated with another drop in Center called The Connection, and became The New Mezz Connection.  It was consumer created, consumer managed, and employed consumers almost exclusively as its staff.  When Cascadia took over, and before they closed down all the drop in centers, one of the first things they did was fire the very people who’d created and worked in The New Mezz Connection from the beginning, and replace them with their own hand-picked consumers.  Cascadia’s trainings for their so-called peer counselors (who were not real peer counselors) was to make them what I will call “enforcers” — acting like police against their own peers.

I have more information about Cascadia’s treatment of mental health consumers.  It’s also my understanding that non-consumer staff may not be well treated there, either?  Perhaps this could be researched, as well.

Drop in centers give people with mental illnesses a place to hang out, eat 2-3 meals a day, and stay out of the hospital!  Drop in centers help people stay on and manage their medications, and learn better coping mechanisms in their lives.   It’s a crime(!!) that Cascadia Behavioral Health closed ALL the Unity (formerly Mental Health Services West) drop in centers. One woman with schizophrenia that I knew, who was clean, well-dressed, an artist and well balanced on medication,  had a terrible relapse when the The Mezz was shut down.   Last time I saw this beautiful woman she was raving in the streets. At least two people I knew committed suicide when the The New Mezz Connection was shut down.  James Chasse was there every day.  Had The Mezz still been there, he would not have been wantonly roaming the streets, and would be alive today.

The Oregonian reported the Costs of Mental Health care on January 24, 2014:  “Care at the Oregon State Hospital runs an estimated $945 a day, or about $344,925 a year, per person, compared with Assertive Community Treatment Services, which run $15,000 a year per person.”

I don’t know if this rumor is true, but someone suggested to me years ago that there is a “turf war” between the hospitals and the outpatient clinics/drop in centers.  They fight over “who gets the money.”  You may wish to look into this and see if it’s true, and I would not be at all surprised if it is.

I hope some of the $28 million for mental health services goes to re-opening the drop in centers throughout Multnomah County.  One other thing — Unity accepted Medicare patients.  When Cascadia came in, it dropped everyone who had Medicare — even if they also had the Oregon Health Plan.  This, too, is outrageous.  Drop in centers — and all mental health facilities in Multnomah County — need to accept Medicare!  Fortunately for me (!!) I get outstanding mental health care at Multnomah County Health Department in Gresham.  I’m now an active member of our community in many areas, including participatory arts.

I also recommend that another organization is contracted with the County’s Mental Health System, and that Cascadia is exposed for its poor performance.


Marian Drake, EdM

On 7/17/2015 4:10 PM, Chair Deborah Kafoury wrote:

A monthly newsletter from Deborah Kafoury
July 2015
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you are enjoying our beautiful Oregon summer.

The Oregon Legislature adjourned last week after passing nearly all of Multnomah County’s top priorities, including legislation that will make our community more secure, our kids healthier and our seniors more stable.

One of our biggest victories this session was passing legislation that will keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of kids.

In April, Multnomah County was the first jurisdiction in Oregon to ban the sale of e-cigarettes and vape pens to kids. Thanks to the tenacity and hard work of Representative Kathleen Taylor and Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward our ordinance is now a statewide policy.

The county also played a lead role in making it easier for seniors to stay in their own homes. Previous legislatures made changes to Oregon’s senior property tax deferral program which forced many seniors out of the program. Our bill, which passed unanimously, allows low-income seniors to stay in their homes, aging with dignity.

Working to ensure that everyone has a stable home is my top priority, so I’m excited that the legislature dedicated $62.5 million for affordable housing statewide, with $20 million set aside for housing specifically for people with mental illness.

The legislature also invested $28 million for mental health services, including jail diversion, crisis services and rental assistance for those with severe mental illness.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge and thank the legislature for their continued partnership in building a new, safe central courthouse in Multnomah County. With the strong support of Speaker Tina Kotek and Representative Jennifer Williamson, the legislature approved an additional $17.4 million for the project.

Together these new investments and reforms will make our county safer, protect our kids from e-cigarettes and ensure more people have a stable home to call their own.


Deborah Kafoury