Potter’s Panel

from the Portland Mercury
On Tuesday, October 31, Mayor Tom Potter convened the first meeting of his Mental Health and Public Safety Panel, which was created in the wake of James Chasse Jr.’s in-police custody death in September. The panel, made up of representatives from the city, county, state, and federal government, plus mental health advocates, is intended to find ways to bolster the safety net for people with mental illness, so they don’t end up dead in the back of a police cruiser.

Much of the initial meeting was spent laying the groundwork and identifying other groups that should be included—like Emergency Response Technicians. But the major focus was on convincing the governor and legislature to approve increases in the Department of Human Services’ budget for mental health care and facilities.

Independent State Senator Ben Westlund warned that getting more mental health dollars would require a focused, concerted effort.

“This is not a task for the timid,” he implored. “This is not a call to action; it’s a mandate to act. How hard are you willing to fight?”

The task force will meet again in the next two weeks to develop a game plan.