Jennifer Kinzey – Candidate Survey 2022

Jennifer Kinzey
Candidate for Oregon House District 34

Question One – People with lived experience of mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, and or trauma are under-represented in public office. What is your personal experience with these illnesses?

While I have personally experienced trauma in my adolescence, my primary experience with all of these issues is as an advocate. I am an attorney representing
parents and kids in DHS cases. These issues are prevalent in my work and I have seen what services work and where we need to do better.

Question Two – Oregon ranks at the bottom of states in a well-regarded national survey of access to public treatment services for mental illness, addiction and alcoholism. What can you in office do to change this?

I believe that OHP should have a separate mental health plan that can be added to any health insurance plan to increase access and decrease cost. We need to encourage more diversity in all levels of mental health providers by funding degree programs, and access to those programs, by underrepresented communities. We need to fund our substance abuse services to decrease wait times and increase access to everyone who needs help, regardless of their contact with the justice system. It should not be the case that it takes criminal charges or DHS involvement to get someone access to the treatment they deserve.

Question Three – In that same national survey, Oregon ranks at the top for prevalence of mental illness, addiction and alcoholism. What can you in office do to change this?

We need to have licensed counselors in schools who meet with every child at least once a year to destigmatize therapy and provide proper support for kids who need it. Counselors in schools are often only utilized for career advice or mediating arguments. Childhood and adolescence is a time when everyone could use emotional guidance. Introducing the benefits of therapy before kids become biased against it can reduce the stigma. It can also address the underlying issues of school violence and bullying.

Question Four – A natural consequence of lack of access to treatments and high prevalence of mental illness, addiction and alcoholism is chronic homelessness. Why isn’t Portland’s strategy to reduce homelessness working and what could you do in office to change that?

We need a holistic approach where an ROI can be signed so all services- housing, therapy, addiction, job, transportation, etc.- can coordinate. We need to devote more funding to social service providers to reduce turnover and increase access. The most successful programs I have seen are those where each person is assigned a mentor or coordinator to help them navigate the process and bureaucracy.

Question Five – In 2015 the US DOJ found the Portland Police Bureau has a pattern and practice of harming people with mental illness. There’s little data to show that pattern and practice has changed, and no data to show other metro area police bureaus are any different. How would you in office engage with this problem?

Police should not be responding to mental health crises. They have more than enough to worry about. I support expanding the Portland Street Response and developing similar units across the State to respond appropriately to issues of mental health. I also support cross training so that police know how to recognize mental health crises and how to mitigate them while waiting for units like Portland Street Response.