Response to the Layoff in Lincoln County Mental Health Services
We’re assaulted daily by headlines about the mental health crisis and the opioid crisis in this country. Lincoln County hasn’t been immune to these challenges. That’s why we, as elected leaders, have been working hard to advocate for resources that will help us respond better to our citizens in need.
It came as a disappointment to us, as it did to many in the community, that the cost of providing services dramatically exceeded the actual revenues generated for those services, leading to a funding deficit. That deficit requires the County to lay off several staff in the co-occurring disorders program, which offers treatment to people with both mental health and addictions issues. The need still exists but stable funding for providing services is a challenge.
It is important to put these cuts in context. While the co-occurring program has been scaled back, it has not been eliminated. Other programs, including addiction services, mental health crisis services (including mobile crisis) and case management to adults, adolescents, children and families, remain in place and are moving forward.
The Board of Commissioners and I embrace the concept of Stepping Up — an effort to reduce the number of people with mental illness and addictions who end up in the criminal justice system. On a typical day thirty percent of the people in our jail have a mental health diagnosis and that does not take into consideration the number of inmates with an addiction problem.
Ballot measure 21-186 is the foundation to build stability; in addition to addressing many other critical public safety needs, it provides us the dedicated resources to fund services to help those with mental illness and addictions who find themselves in the justice system. We want to keep them out of the jail and successful in the community.
This situation, as painful as it is, also provides a teachable moment. We can no longer survive with a mental health program under the control of a single agency. We need to, and are, building a robust mental health system that involves not just the county, but Samaritan Health, law enforcement, the Siletz Tribe, private treatment providers, social service agencies, family members—in short, anyone who cares about building a safer, healthier, more caring community.
The community needs to make an investment in assuring that mentally ill people are receiving the services they need and mental health professionals are engaging clients in jail and making sure they continue with services when released. This levy is a crucial piece of the whole puzzle to prevent the revolving door in and out of the criminal justice system. With the passing of measure 21-186 we will break the cycle and improve the system.
Sheriff Curtis Landers