Oregon’s Peer Run Respite Grants – updated 11 22 2023

Oregon To Create Peer-Run Mental Health Respite Programs – October 2019

Oregon lawmakers consider bill creating peer respite centers – March 2021

House Bill 2980 – 2021 (PDF)

New Peer Respite Centers Remain Elusive, 6 Months After New Law – no date

THE STATE OF OREGON OREGON HEALTH AUTHORITY ISSUES THE FOLLOWING REQUEST FOR GRANT PROPOSALS – RFGP #OHA-S-44300-00004104 for OHA Health Systems-Behavioral Health Office of Recovery & Resilience

For the creation and operation of Peer-Run Respite Programs in Oregon
Peer-Run Respite Programs in Oregon (PDF)

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has extended the deadline for filing grant proposals for the creation and operation of peer-run respite programs by three weeks, to Oct. 27. The Request for Grant Proposals (RFGP) seeks state-based organizations to operate peer-run respite programs for people who experience a mental health crisis or emotional distress that may lead to a higher level of care.

The program, established under House Bill 2980, will distribute $6 million in grants to operate up to four peer-run centers in four geographic regions: The Portland-Metro area, central or eastern Oregon, southern Oregon and the Oregon coast. At least one of the centers must offer culturally specific services.

Peer-run respites are voluntary, non-clinical, short-term residential programs operated in home-like settings for people experiencing emotional distress. The respites are staffed by people with lived experience and run independently of other behavioral health support providers.

The program is being operated through OHA’s Office of Recovery and Resilience. More about the grants and the program can be found here.

Eligibility is limited to peer-run organizations currently operating in Oregon. Information on how to apply for the programs, including the RFGP can be found here. The deadline for applications is Thursday, Oct. 27.

Below is a pre-application meeting for prospective grantees hosted by the Oregon Health Authority.

Documents distributed by the state purchasing department for Peer Run Respite Grants

5509-0 Amendment 3 Extending Due Date

Intent to Award Notice RFP

On November 30, 2022, a three member Evaluation Committee, which included internal OHA employees, as well as external subject matter experts met to discuss and submit final scores regarding five (5) Responsive/Responsible Proposals received.

At the conclusion of the Evaluation Committee meeting, the following ranking was established:

Highest Ranked – Stabbin’ Wagon
Second Ranked – Black Mental Health Oregon
Third Ranked – Able House

Fourth Ranked – Folk Time
Fifth Ranked – Cascade Peer and Self Help Center

OHA intends to award Contracts to Black Mental Health Oregon, Stabbin’ Wagon and Able House and is issuing this Notice to initiate the seven-calendar day process established in Section 7.3. “Award Notice”.

OHA will begin “Final Selection and Award” with Black Mental Health Oregon, Stabbin’ Wagon and Able House.

Proposals submitted to the Oregon Health Authority for the 2023 Peer Respite Grant – $4,500,000 total for three grants. (PDF – 135 pages)
Scoring sheet of Peer Respite Grant applications – redacted by OHA (PDF – 61 pages)
Correspondence related to the Peer Respite Grant application (PDF – 43 pages)

Justice department investigates nonprofit selected for $1.5 million state contract – The Lund Report July 27, 2023
The Oregon Department of Justice issued a wide-ranging demand to Black Mental Health Oregon for financial documentation

The Oregon Department of Justice has opened an investigation into an organization that the Oregon Health Authority selected for a $1.5 million contract to open a new behavioral health center in Portland.

The new development marks the latest setback for a program approved by lawmakers in 2021. It was supposed to launch more than a year ago following successes in other states.

The health authority late last year issued a notice of its intent to award contracts to three organizations to operate mental health respite centers. They will provide people in crisis a short-term stay coupled with support from others who’ve had similar experiences, known as “peers.”

Message from Stabbin’ Wagon about Medford police terror against people seeking HIV services – August 7, 2023 posted on Instagram

On Thursday, August 3rd, we hosted an HIV testing party from 6-10PM in downtown Medford, Oregon. Intended to be a safe, fun and no barrier event to provide free HIV testing and education.

At 7PM the Medford police arrived to harass event attendees actively receiving HIV testing. To protect the confidentiality of our community, Stabbin’ Wagon informed the police they were not welcome at the event.

Police violently arrested two Stabbin’ Wagon staff members, and attempted to extract confidential health information from a staff member’s electronic device.

Criminalization of HIV testing services is a historical and ever present issue. We believe police targeted the event because of our organization’s political views regarding law enforcement and public health. Our views are simple: police terror creates dangerous and unnecessary barriers for people seeking life saving harm reduction.

Stabbin’ Wagon is a mobile harm reduction unit in Southern Oregon, offering ulta low barrier services in Jackson county. We provide education, peer support and safer use supplies including Naloxone. Our HIV testing event was co-hosted by LGBTQ+ reproductive rights group the @rvpeppershakers and sex worker collective @friendsintosextrade.

The criminalization of harm reduction work is nothing new. During the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, groups like ACT UP were routinely arrested for distributing new syringes in New York City. In the 1990s and early 2000s, mass distribution of Naloxone was only possible through underground networks. Today, police continue to murder people experiencing emotional distress as a routine response to “welfare checks,” especially in BIPOC, poor and LGBTQ+ communities.

Being tested for HIV is not a crime. It is unacceptable for police to surveil, harass, attempt to forcibly obtain private healthcare information and arrest workers at an HIV testing event. Cont’d in comments.

Oregon Health Authority puts $1.5 million grant on hold – The Lund Report – August 8 2023
Peer respite award paused after justice department lawyers open investigation

The Oregon Health Authority has put a $1.5 million grant on hold after state justice department lawyers opened an investigation into the nonprofit slated to receive it.

The health authority’s change of course represents another snag for a program approved by lawmakers in 2021 to establish mental health respite centers. The centers are intended to provide people in crisis a place to stay where they can receive support from others who’ve faced similar challenges, known as “peers.” Modeled after successes in other states, the program was supposed to launch more than a year ago.

Late last year health officials selected Black Mental Health Oregon to be one of three organizations tasked with setting up a center with $1.5 million in funding.

READ – email correspondence of Medford police and Jefferson County District Attorney upon learning Stabbin Wagon is selected to be an OHA peer respite grantee (March – April 2023)

Two Stabbin’ Wagon employees arrested during ‘HIV-testing party’ – Rogue Valley Times August 11, 2023

Two employees of Stabbin’ Wagon, a Medford-based organization providing harm reduction for low-income residents, were arrested Thursday, reportedly during an HIV-testing event they sponsored at Vogel Plaza.

Stabbin’ Wagon founder and director Melissa Michelle Jones, 46, and an associate, Samantha Rae Strong, 25, were arrested on numerous charges, including interfering with a police officer, according to Medford City Attorney Eric Mitton in a statement issued Monday. Jones and Strong were lodged in the Jackson County Jail and released, the county sheriff’s inmate roster showed.

Stabbin Wagon workers plead not guilty to charges, contest downtown exclusion – Rogue Valley Times August 25 2023

Two Stabbin Wagon workers pleaded not guilty in Medford Municipal Court Thursday to criminal charges alleging they interfered with police Aug. 3 during an HIV-testing event the nonprofit sponsored at Vogel Plaza.

Stabbin Wagon founder and director Melissa Michelle Jones, 45, is charged with interfering with a peace officer, second-degree disorderly conduct, harassment and resisting arrest.

Samantha Rae Strong, 25, is charged with interfering with a peace officer and harassment. The charges for both women carry up to one-and-a-half years in jail and a $2,000 fine, according to Municipal Court Judge Virginia Greer.

What’s Eating Oregon? Peer Respites, The Lund Report & Beyond – Mad In America, September 5, 2023

Peer respite has gained a fair amount of ground since its start. With now over three dozen peer respites across the country, the numbers still fall far short of where they should be, but are nonetheless headed in a promising direction… if the integrity of the model has and can be maintained. But, that’s a big ‘if,’ and recent bumps in Connecticut and other states serve to reveal just how challenging keeping an alternative approach actually alternative can be. Oregon is one prominent example of how things can go awry, even when they seem to start off on the right foot.

Eds. Note – We highlight one of the responses to this opinion piece by Sera Davidow, who failed to mention she is a direct recipient of money from the Oregon Awardee Stabbin Wagon. Below, Nick Budnick, Editor of the Lund Report responds to some of the allegations in Davidow’s writing.

As editor of The Lund Report, I’d like to add a few points for the record. First, we’ve rectified our earlier article’s inadvertent omission that a peer advocate we quoted sits on our new advisory board. The board met for the first time last week. We’ve added an editor’s note to the article.

Since we’re on the subject, I would note that the editor of Mad in America eventually added a note atop your column. It rectified your omission that you work for an organization that would receive funds from one of the Oregon grant awards we wrote about.

I encourage your readers to read our actual reporting. The Lund Report has been monitoring and covering the peer respite legislation for some time, noting that published research supports the respite model. We have been the only reporters covering the state’s failure to roll out the program in a timely way (indeed, you linked to one of those articles).

In keeping with our mission and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, we went to great lengths to connect with the organizations involved in this situation and provide the public with the best information possible. In fact, in pursuit of context and the two organizations’ perspective, we significantly delayed our initial article about the concerns raised by the Oregon Department of Justice and others in order to make further and extraordinary efforts to make contact. Unfortunately, though both had applied to be part of a public-facing, publicly funded government program, they refused.

I appreciated your candor in one comment response, acknowledging the article’s topic is a ‘complicated situation,’ but maintaining that in your own opinion, ‘dirty laundry’ should not be aired publicly. Personally, I believe that just as our society relies on quality information from journalists and others to pursue positive change, the people who obtain needed services from systems of care benefit from scrutiny of those systems to ensure quality of care and access to care. When concerns are not aired, they more often go unaddressed.

That said, I do agree that the situation is multi-faceted and complicated. My colleague at The Lund Report recently was able to finally talk with one of the grantees, driving four hours and staying overnight to do so. In short, we keep pursuing our mission of ethical, public-service journalism.

Stabbin Wagon employees Melissa Jones, left, and Samantha Strong, talk with attorney Sarah Alvarez at a hearing Aug. 24 challenging the city’s ban from them being in downtown.

Stabbin Wagon on track to receive $1.5 million for peer respite center – Rogue Valley Times Sept 5 2023

Attorney says Local agencies reluctant to speak out for fear of retaliation by nonprofit’s owner, who was arrested Aug. 3

An attorney representing Stabbin Wagon, a Medford-based harm-reduction nonprofit whose owner was recently arrested for allegedly interfering with law enforcement, said the organization has signed a contract with the Oregon Health Authority to open a facility for people in mental or emotional extremis.

Named for the clean needles the organization hands out for free with other supplies for safer drug use, Stabbin Wagon operates a mobile unit that rotates among a handful of sites, notably the Hawthorne Park area.

The health authority has confirmed receipt of the signed contract and, as of Friday, had not asked Stabbin Wagon for any further information or indicated any issues, according to Alicia LeDuc Montgomery, a lawyer at the law firm LeDuc Montgomery LLC.

As far as the nonprofit knows, Stabbin Wagon is on track to receive about $1.5 million in state funds to establish a peer-run respite program in Southern Oregon, said Montgomery, who has a civil rights focus. The funds would cover two years of operation.

READ – Stabbin Wagon on track to receive $1.5 million for peer respite center – Jefferson Public Radio, September 6 2023

Facing backlash over $1.5 million state grant, Stabbin’ Wagon speaks out – Lund Report, September 12, 2023

New friction surfaces in Medford as Oregon tries to set up respite centers for people in mental health crisis

Melissa Jones is banned from downtown Medford. But just a few blocks away, under an interstate overpass, she is a very welcome presence.

Late last month, a municipal court judge upheld a police order excluding Jones, who distributes clean syringes and opioid reversal medications, from the city center for allegedly interfering with officers trying to take a runaway youth into custody.

Friday evening, next to a white van used by her nonprofit, Stabbin’ Wagon. Jones and an associate warmly greeted a stream of grateful visitors who filled plastic sacks with supplies before disappearing into the latesummer night.

Grant, Interrupted: An Introduction and Report Back from Oregon – editorial from members of Stabbin Wagon, October 19, 2023

In 2021, the Oregon legislature designated six million dollars to establish and operate four peer respites across the state. Peer respites are an innovative and cost effective alternative to psychiatric hospitalization, and these resources are badly needed across the country. In late 2022, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) issued a public request for grant proposals, and our organization was chosen to create and operate a peer respite in Southern Oregon.

In the year since the Oregon Health Authority issued its Intent to Award notice, Oregon’s peer respite’s have come under attack from many sides. Our respite, the Mountain Beaver House, has been a main focus of these attacks, along with the Portland-based grant awardees Black Mental Health Oregon. Sera Davidow did a fantastic job laying out the crux of these controversies in another recent blog post.

Despite criticisms, Stabbin’ Wagon signs contract with health authority – Lund Report, November 22 2023

The Medford nonprofit will provide a new, non-clinical mental health service even after clashing with local officials. The status of other contracts remains uncertain.

The Oregon Health Authority has signed a $1.5 million contract with Stabbin’ Wagon, a nonprofit that has sparked controversy in southern Oregon, to operate a new program offering short-term residential stays to people experiencing mental health crises.

Health authority spokesperson Tim Heider on Friday confirmed in an emailed statement to The Lund Report that the agency had entered into an agreement with the Medford-based nonprofit that includes additional oversight. The contract comes despite concerns from southern Oregon leaders and treatment providers about funding Stabbin’ Wagon, a nascent nonprofit known for its sharp-elbowed approach to police and others.

Stabbin’ Wagon will use the money to set up what it’s calling the “Mountain Beaver House” in Jackson County to be one of four state-funded peer respite centers. Each center will offer a voluntary, non-clinical home-like setting where up to six people facing emotional distress or mental health crises can stay for up to two weeks while getting support from “peers,” others who’ve faced similar challenges.