Scott Snedecor – A Lifetime of Service

County and Recovery Community Leaders Praise Scott Snedecor
from the Multnomah County internal website – not available online, August 2018

Among the countless behavioral health advocates in the Pacific Northwest, one of the most well-known and beloved is Scott Snedecor.

With more than 43 years’ experience in the mental health and addictions field, Scott is known as a pioneering figure in the region’s peer community. His life’s work has been built around ensuring people experiencing mental health and addictions issues could have access to healers who can walk with them in their recovery.

Scott with "Thank You!" plaques from State of Oregon and Multnomah County.

Scott with “Thank You!” plaques from State of Oregon and Multnomah County.

In 2000, Scott was one of the first people employed by Multnomah County to ensure people with lived experience could be involved in improving other consumers’ care. As a director for Mind Empowered, Inc., he led one of Portland’s first peer-focused agencies aimed at helping others experiencing behavioral health challenges [mental illness]. Before retiring, he helped bring peer services to the Oregon State Hospital.

Thanks to the tireless work of advocates like Scott, peers have become a part of behavioral health services throughout Oregon. Today, Multnomah County leaders agree recovery becomes more achievable with support from people with lived experience. The County now has its own office of consumer engagement, which employs two consumers to influence how residents experience mental health and addiction services.

David Hidalgo, who directs the County’s Mental Health and Addictions Services Division, says peers like Scott Snedecor should be admired for the value they bring to people experiencing mental health and addiction services.

“Recovery is possible for all, especially wth support from other people with their own lived experience,” Hidalgo said. “Our services are better today, in part because of the influence of Scott Snedecor and other leaders in the recovery community.”

Scott told the Portland Tribune in 2011 his passion for helping others is based on his own history with the mental health system. His experiences affirmed his believe in being a helper for others, supporting people to heal from within.

In a separate interview in 2001, Scott recalled his first experience receiving mental health services.

Scott said his challenges began after a car accident that resulted in a serious head injury. After being hospitalized because of a mental health crisis, Scott said he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Over the next ten year, Scott said, he continued to receive outpatient and inpatient services. As some points during his treatment, he said his depression was so severe he didn’t want to live anymore.

Scott’s turning point came when he began to rely on his natural supports. His family and friends becomes partners in his recovery. He also built a self-care routine and honed his creative skills, including filmmaking and art. In his own words, he became a “survivor.”

Along the way, Scott found a passion for helping others. He became motivated to help people harness their own strengths in their recovery. In the 2001 interview, Scott described being an early leader in Multnomah County’s peer programming.

“For a long time the decisions in the mental health world have been made by professionals using their knowledge of empirical techniques in science,” he said. “And these techniques don’t really address the should and spirit and the wants and needs of the people that have these sorts of problems. I want to be a healer of people, to help them learn that they are responsible for healing their souls.”

In 2003 Scott became the first peer specialist at the Oregon State Hospital. At the State Hospital, he helped amplify the voice of the consumer. As someone who had firsthand experience with mental illness, he brought empathy and support to people experiencing challenges of their own.

Lately, health issues have prevented Scott from doing the work he loves. While Scott receives care, friends and family have been visiting him round the clock. Even from his hospital room, people in Scott’s circle say his positive influence continues to be felt throughout Multnomah County.

Scott Snedecor died on Christmas Eve 2019. He’ll be awarded the 2020 Oregon Advocacy Award at the Northwest Law & Mental Health Conference in March 2020.