Wheeler Drops Psychiatric Emergency Center Solution

County Chair Ted Wheeler has given up the prospect of a public safety levy, proposed in February to be on the ballot in November. The levy would have, in part, funded a psychiatric emergency center.

In 2007, in response to the beating death of James Chasse, Mayor Potter’s Mental Health and Public Safety Task Force, which included Chair Wheeler as a full participant, identified replacing the Crisis Triage Center with a new psychiatric emergency center as a top priority. Multnomah County is fully responsible for creating a new psychiatric emergency center.

Run by Providence Hospital, the Crisis Triage Center was closed by Multnomah County in 2003 after community criticism for poor management.

Most major American cities have a psychiatric emergency center available at all hours to respond to crisis and reduce the number of people who are taken to jail or end up for extended stays in psychiatric hospital units. Psychiatric emergency centers are applauded by police officers, mental health advocates, and county administrators as a basic risk management tool, cutting costs to tax payers and saving lives.

In a public meeting last February hosted by the Mental Health Association of Portland, Wheeler told advocates he voted against shifting funds from Gresham business development to building a psychiatric emergency center because a public safety levy was in the works.

Though Wheeler won’t fight for the levy, today’s press release states his latest setback won’t affect the 2009 opening of the Wapato jail.

The future of the proposed psychiatric emergency center was not mentioned in the press release.

UPDATE – Chair Wheeler’s 2009 budget, approved in June, included $1,000,000 toward the building of a “sub-acute facility’ which is jargon for a psychiatric emergency center.

From the budget description: The sub-acute treatment facility offers 16 beds of short-term mental health treatment in a secure locked environment as a lower cost alternative to hospitalization for 600 clients per year. Facility staffing will include physical and mental health professionals. This offer supports construction and furnishings only. Operating costs would be funded in fiscal 2009-2010.

This base offer of $1,000,000 County General Fund represents the County’s contribution towards creation of the facility; community partners who will also utilize the facility will be asked to contribute the remaining $800,000.

Thanks Ted! Now let’s find operating funds and get those community partners onboard!

READ – Ted Wheeler’s press release, County Will Not Seek Public Safety Funds in November Election, July 4, 2008
EXTRA – Multnomah County chairman puts kibosh on having property-tax levy on November ballot, from the Oregonian, July 4 2008
EXTRA – MultCo Drops November Public-Safety Levy, Willamette Week, July 3 2008
EXTRA – Disappointment… County Boss Soul Searches on Mental Health Center, Portland Mercury, January 24, 2008