Jeri Williams – candidate for Portland City Council, position 4

In your future elected position, what will you do to assure the community tragedies such as James Chasse, Brad Morgan, Kendra James, Anthony McDowell, and Jack Collins, are prevented from happening again?

Jeri Williams

Jeri Williams

I first started working on Police accountability after Kendra James was killed by the Portland Police. We marched in rallies, and supported the AMA’s investigation. I even considered being the chief petitioner for a Police Accountability Committee.

As someone who has a history with the police and family with mental health issues I know of some steps that need to happen. Police need to be trained to work with folks with mental health issues. They need to possess a much deeper understanding of this population.

They also need to reform their decision making processes when it comes to shooting people.

Working inside City Hall for the last five years has taught me a lot about how elected operate. When elected I would not be silent about these issues simply because some other commissioner may have the Police in their portfolio.

There issues are citywide and need to be addressed by all concerned. Not only do mental health advocates need to be sitting at the decision making tables but those whom the decisions are being made for also need to represent their communities. I will be the one standing with the door open for them to enter into a deeper more effective solution to our problems. Most of our biggest solutions lie in the thinking of those who have lived it.

In your future office, what powers will you use to affect positive change in mental health services? What changes will you pursue?

Many times people may say that the actual services are left to the County and are not a City issue
But they are also our responsibility. I don’t think enough has been done by the City to prioritize these issues even though we deal with issues of housing which is paramount in order to tackle mental health issues. As someone who had come up relying on threadbare systems for my own recovery I know there is an order that should be happening for people in order to receive the help they need to not only survive but succeed. If I had not landed in the West women’s shelter in 1993 for fourteen months to pull my life together and continued through NARA mental health services I do not know where I would be. My hierarchy of needs needed to be met before I could move on to the next issue which is to say I had to have a roof over my head so I could deal with the PTSD I suffered as a battered woman and trafficking victim.

I would like to see Portland focus on a Home First model to get people stabilized and for officials to understand the real life models of what it takes for a person to survive.

On January 27 the Mental Health Association of Portland sent questions to all Oregon political candidates. This is one response. This post is not a political endorsement but an opportunity to speak out about mental illness. Minor changes may have been made to the text for clarity.