Oregonian Turns To Heroin For Pain Relief After Opioid Prescription Cut

From OPB.org – July 2016

John is a carpenter, OPB is only using his first name for reasons that’ll become clear in this story.

John grew up in southern Oregon and for 20 years had a successful business installing kitchens. Then, in 2005, he was in a car crash. “I mean, fractured my neck, fractured my back. I had to have my right shoulder replaced,” he said.

John was prescribed opioids to deal with the pain.

“After about four years I was on 160 milligrams of Oxycontin … and then it was 56 milligrams of oxycodone and that went on for maybe four years.”

John lives in his truck and takes heroin to deal with his chronic pain. “It’s a really upsetting story and one thing that’s so upsetting about it, is that it’s actually quite common,” said neurologist Dr. Eve Klein.

John lives in his truck and takes heroin to deal with his chronic pain. “It’s a really upsetting story and one thing that’s so upsetting about it, is that it’s actually quite common,” said neurologist Dr. Eve Klein.

Today, he’s a mess. He lives in his pick-up truck and is in constant pain.

Without pain killers he said, he misses work. Which is why he was alarmed recently when his doctor — following new state guidelines — started reducing his dosage.

“The first thing he did was cut me back by a full one-third,” he said. “It became an argument with him. Two months later, he cuts me back by another full third,” he said.

John concedes he was using too many opioids — but points out it was all legal and under a doctor’s supervision. He said tapering off the drugs left him with terrible pain in his neck and back.

“Your body becomes so jittery and moving around. And just, I mean there’s no place of comfort,” he said. “I mean it’s torture.”

John said he stuck with the low doses for seven weeks, then decided to visit Old Town Portland to buy heroin.

He was incarcerated for cocaine use in the 1980s, which is how he knew where to go for illegal drugs. He said he turned to heroin because he had to have something to deal with his chronic pain.

He didn’t want to inject it, so his solution was to cook the heroin in tin-foil with a lighter — like he’d seen others do — then inhale the fumes.

“But most of the drug just goes up in smoke. So the next time I went to this dealer, I said, ‘Well, how do you do it?’ And he said, ‘Well, I snort it.’ And I said, ‘Well this is black tar, how do you snort it?’ And he said, ‘Oh! You cook it and you put it in a needle except you take the needle off and you shoot it up your nose and snort it,’” explained John.

John said he understands the need to crack down on opioids. He knows more than 28,000 Americans overdose and die abusing the drugs every year. But, he said, acupuncture and physical therapy just don’t give him much relief.

“It’s a really upsetting story and one thing that’s so upsetting about it is that it’s actually quite common,” said Dr. Eve Klein, a neurologist working on pain management. She said when somebody’s been on opioids so long, tapering often doesn’t work. She hasn’t met John but thinks he should probably go to a methadone clinic.

“And then once he’s on something like methadone and he’s stable and he’s out of that rat race of needing heroin every six hours. Then he can start looking into things like, ‘OK, what am I going to do about pain management now?,’” she said.

Congress just passed a bill to reduce opioid addiction. Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden voted for it, but said it’s only a ‘half measure.’ He’s said more legal options for dealing with pain are needed, “If all you do is restrict choices to medication, the addiction does not vanish magically. You’ve got to have prevention and treatment.”

Meanwhile, John lives in his truck and seeks relief where he can. He’s terrified of the traffic stop that could land him in jail.

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Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare is trying to stabilize

The Daily Astorian, July 18 2016

The new leader at Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare is working to stabilize the struggling mental health agency and identify the most vulnerable patients to ensure they receive quality care.

Amy Baker, the interim executive director, is trying to reassemble a crisis team weakened by staff resignations during leadership turmoil over the past year. The agency is also hoping to open a crisis respite center in Warrenton later this month that could help relieve pressure on hospital emergency rooms and the county jail.

“We’re never going to have the resources to be all things to all people,” said Baker, who took over in June after top administrators left amid public and internal criticism of the agency’s management. “But our absolute role and necessity is that we know who the most vulnerable are, and that includes both adults and kids.”

Clatsop County contracts with the agency to provide mental health services. The agency is part of Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc., which oversees mental health in several counties.

Baker, who was the director of prevention and trauma informed systems at Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, said her immediate priorities are to ensure client safety, improve community relations, open the crisis respite center and boost employee morale.

Crisis respite center

The crisis respite center was scheduled to open in April but was delayed in a dispute over whether the center would have secure rooms. Police and city leaders in Astoria and Warrenton wanted secure rooms so potentially dangerous patients could not simply walk away.

The partnership behind the respite center — the county, Columbia Memorial Hospital, Providence Seaside Hospital and Greater Oregon Behavioral Health — agreed that up to four of the 16 rooms would be secure.

Baker said Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare, which will operate the respite center for the partnership, hopes the facility can open next week. She said the agency is still awaiting state authorization for the four secure rooms, but licensing could come after the state makes an assessment in late August.

“Everybody that I’ve talked to feels like this is going to be certainly better than what we have right now,” Baker said.

Response to critical reviews

Complaints about Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare had circulated on the North Coast for years and, in many ways, were similar to the challenges in mental health care experienced across Oregon and the nation. But after a woman with a history of mental illness jumped off the Astoria Bridge in April 2015 — and it was discovered that she had multiple interactions with police and the agency in the months before her death — the agency came under greater scrutiny.

The agency is on track to respond to a critical Oregon Health Authority review in June that validated many of the public and internal concerns about management and quality of care.

The state review found that the agency will need regulatory oversight “until stability in the community mental health system is reached.”

“I think the things that they identified in that audit are all fixable,” Baker said. “And the challenges with CBH aren’t anything that people don’t already know and have heard about.”

The Oregon Health Authority review was provided to The Daily Astorian by an anonymous source in June. The state formally released the report to the newspaper on Friday in response to a public records request.

A separate internal investigation into Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare’s management was also conducted after the labor union that represents workers at the agency took a “no confidence” vote in the former clinical director.

The findings of the investigation have not been released publicly, and the agency has declined a request by The Daily Astorian to disclose the conclusions. Three top administrators left the agency after the investigation, and two federal lawsuits have been filed over management issues.

Baker said in an email Saturday that the agency is unable to release the internal report “because it contains personal and personnel information subject to attorney-client privilege.

“However, the CBH board took the findings seriously. Existing and newly installed CBH management are in the process of addressing the findings of the report. We have every confidence that the organization will be much stronger moving forward and more effective in partnering with other stakeholders and in serving the behavioral health needs in Clatsop County.”

Clear expectations

County Manager Cameron Moore believes it is important for the county to make clear what the expectations are for Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare going forward.

The county Board of Commissioners could hold a work session in August with Baker, the agency’s board, Greater Oregon Behavioral Health and the Oregon Health Authority to outline responsibilities.

“I think we’re all happy that we’re finally seeing things at CBH move in a positive direction,” Moore told county commissioners Wednesday night. “But I also think it’s very important now that the commission, the CBH board and state agencies make sure that we’re all on the same page going forward.”

Baker has been meeting with civic and law enforcement leaders throughout the county to help restore the agency’s reputation.

“It’s really been to reach out and thank them for their patience, assure them that we’re committed to being a strong, vibrant organization. That we’re open to problems, challenges, criticism,” she said. “We want to address that. We want to be an organization that this community is proud of.”

But she also knows she will be judged by whether the agency improves.

“I don’t expect people to just believe everything that I’m going to say,” Baker said. “They need to see action. So that’s what I’m going to do.”

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Rosenbaum & Watson quit, COAB says good riddance (updated x6 + video)

READ – Correspondence between COAB & COCL: providing a meeting room to comply with public meeting law (PDF – 3 pages) – July 16, 2016


Community police oversight panel recommends court-ordered monitor to track Portland police reforms

From The Oregonian, July 2016

A community police oversight panel Thursday night voted to recommend that a court-ordered monitor be hired to track and regularly report on the progress of federally-mandated reforms to Portland police policies and training.

The city’s Community Oversight Advisory Board voted 8 to 0 to urge a settlement agreement reached between the city, U.S. Department of Justice and Portland police union be altered to allow for a court-ordered monitor. Two board members abstained from the vote.

COAB member Jimi Johnson explains the situation – July 14, 2016

The recommendation is significant because it arose from community members who have worked for more than a year evaluating police policies and training on use of force, police encounters with people suffering from mental illness, and how to prevent bias-based policing. But their recommendations have fallen on deaf ears, having received few, if any, responses from either federal Justice officials, City Hall leaders, or the police chief.

READ MORE of Community police oversight panel recommends court-ordered monitor to track Portland police reforms, at The Oregonian


Dysfunctional police reform panel needs a new way forward

Unsigned editorial from The Oregonian – July 2016


Our letter to the parties of US DOJ v. City of Portland, sent 7/14/2016

Friends,

We opened the letter from Rosenbaum & Watson last night expecting a resignation from the contract to oversee the settlement agreement in US DOJ v City of Portland. Instead, R&W asks to renegotiate their contract.

Because R&W is both out of compliance with the contract and failed to provide sufficient structure to engage the community in a discussion of police use of force against people with mental illness, we would take them up on their offer. Hiring R&W was a mistake it is time for City Council to amend.

But R&W asks for the settlement to be reopened and renegotiated in federal court entirely to suit their shortcomings. Resist this request – they’re not worth it. They haven’t offered useful community-centered advice to date and this request continues the inanity. Renegotiation in federal court would be an unnecessary delay of the settlement agreement and great expense to all parties. It’s important to remember – people’s lives are at stake.

City contract managers should be directed by Council to amend the contract with R&W to conclude at the end of 2016 to insure full transition to a new, different contractor – who will proceed to pursue all settlement items agreed on by all parties. Further, the city should immediately assign the city contracts office to begin to seek another contractor to serve as the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison. This time follow your rules.

Thanks!


City-hired team to monitor Portland police reforms seeks separation from community board

The Oregonian – July 2016

The city of Portland’s unique attempt to have community members work with outside consultants to monitor federally-mandated police reforms has unraveled, a year and a half into its creation.

Chicago-based academics Dennis Rosenbaum and Amy Watson no longer want to lead the Community Oversight Advisory Board. In fact, they don’t want to be involved with the board at all.

This week, they petitioned the city and U.S. Department of Justice to amend the settlement agreement to allow them to pull out.

READ MORE AT City-hired team to monitor Portland police reforms seeks separation from community board


Rosenbaum & Watson Petition for Amendments to Settlement Agreement

Re: COCL Petition for Amendments to Settlement Agreement from Rosenbaum & Watson, LLP (Formatted – PDF)

Office of the Compliance Officer and Community Liaison (COCL)

Rosenbaum & Watson, LLP COCL
Dennis Rosenbaum, Ph.D., Amy Watson, Ph.D., Thomas Christoff, Ph.D., Geoffrey Alpert, Ph.D., Heather Daniel, J.D., B.A. – rosenbaumandwatsonllp@gmail.com

July 11, 2016

Transmitted by E-mail to: The United States Department of Justice & The City of Portland

Re: COCL Petition for Amendments to Settlement Agreement

Dear U.S. Department of Justice and City of Portland:

The Compliance Officer and Community Liaison (COCL) issues this statement as a formal position on the current operations of the Community Oversight and Advisory Board (COAB) and its relationship to the COCL. Per the Settlement Agreement, “The Parties may jointly stipulate to make changes, modifications, and amendments to this Agreement” (Par. 187) and “where the City agrees with DOJ’s recommendations, the Parties shall stipulate to modify the Agreement accordingly” (Par. 175). We issue this statement to request a joint amendment to the Settlement Agreement by the Parties regarding the COCL’s relationship to the COAB. In this statement, we document issues that have led us to our current position and provide a suggested plan of action for going forward.

Proposal for Separation

The current COAB structure is not working as intended. As we will further detail below, we believe the extent of damage done to this point prohibits restoration of the relationship between COCL and COAB. As the result of nearly two years of ambiguity, disrespect, and willful undermining of the COCL’s authority to run the COAB, we are requesting the Settlement Agreement be amended to separate the COCL from the COAB. Also, this separation will allow the COCL, assuming adequate funding, to conduct a more comprehensive compliance assessment without distraction.

Confusion in the Operation of COAB

From the beginning of COCL’s relationship with the COAB, there has been confusion as to the independence of the COAB. The Settlement Agreement authorizes COAB to “independently assess the implementation of this Agreement” (Par. 141). On numerous occasions, the COCL, DOJ, and City have attempted to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the COAB to the board. In March and April of 2015, the COCL and DOJ issued separate statements attempting to clarify the roles and responsibilities for COAB operation. DOJ and the City have made several presentations at COAB meetings, informing COAB of Settlement Agreement paragraphs which outline COAB authority. However, these efforts have often been interpreted as COCL attempting to “control” the COAB, resulting in a reduction in COCL’s perceived legitimacy with this body.

Despite the efforts of all involved, confusion has continued to linger due to the vague language of the Settlement Agreement. Many members of the COAB point to the letter of the Agreement while refusing to consider its intent as detailed in statements and presentations from COCL, DOJ, and the City. Although the Settlement Agreement is clear that “The COCL will chair the COAB, preside over COAB meetings, take and count votes, and perform such other activities as are necessary for the efficient operation of the COAB.” (Par. 144), most often cited is Par. 141 and subsection (a): “The COAB shall be authorized to: (a) independently assess the implementation of this Agreement.” The term “independently assess” has not been qualified to date and is therefore a point of persistent ambiguity. Such ambiguity has been interpreted by members of the public and some members of the COAB as evidence COAB should operate independently from the COCL. For instance, in the July 4, 2016 “Open Letter” supported by nearly all members of the COAB, the author states the COAB has an “interest in self-governance and independence from the…COCL.” Such independence from the COCL is not contemplated by the Settlement Agreement and we believe results from a lack of clear delineation of COAB roles.

There has also been confusion regarding the COCL’s ability to manage the COAB. While we did not select members of the COAB, nor were we involved in designing the process to select them, we are nonetheless responsible for the functioning of the COAB. COCL only has conditional authority to remove members for “misconduct” (Par. 144), and thus far we have been limited in our ability to remove members who actively work against the efficient functioning of the COAB. This has been particularly problematic given ambiguity around the appropriate definition of misconduct. Our ability to manage meeting disruptions and resolve confusion about independence has been constrained by a lack of clarity regarding who exactly is actually in charge. In the past, actions that we have felt were necessary for the “efficient operation of the COAB” (Par. 143) have required clearance by the City and DOJ. The Settlement Agreement is clear that the COCL does not even have the ability to remove someone from the COAB on our own, as we must consult with DOJ prior to removal (Par. 144).

Additionally, other instances of confusion in the process have ultimately been blamed on COCL, further straining our relationships with COAB members. For instance, there have been considerable delays in providing feedback to the COAB on their recommendations related to policy and the “48-hour rule.” COCL has taken the brunt of COAB frustration for not receiving feedback, even though we have not been the source of such delays.

Recent Disruptions and COAB Violations

As has been well-documented in media and social network sites, meetings in the past few months have been subjected to repeated disruptions, in-fighting and early adjournments. We have attempted to continue the business of the COAB by holding one executive committee meeting via phone call-in and video conferencing. While successful in allowing this body to operate without interruption, this also has the unfortunate side effect of having some community members feel excluded by forcing them to participate through intermediate channels. In the future, we encourage the Parties to explore a range of options for community engagement in light of the continued disruptions and incivility from a small group of individuals at public meetings. With current technologies, there are many electronic possibilities that allow input from community members who cannot, or prefer not to, attend public meetings. Arguably, these approaches are more democratic and offer a much larger definition of “community” but will take time to become accepted.

Most recently, there have been actions on the part of COAB members that have displayed a blatant disregard for our authority to chair the COAB. On June 27, 2016, as several COAB member sought to hold their own emergency meeting, COCL authored a letter informing members of the COAB that any quorum to discuss COAB business without an approved agenda and presence of the COAB Chair would be violation of the Settlement Agreement, COAB by-laws, and Public Meetings Law. In defiance of the Settlement Agreement and public meetings law, on July 4, 2016, members of the COAB issued an “Open Letter” as well as a “List of issues for the COAB to consider regarding the operation of the COAB and the COCL.” A quorum of COAB members reviewed the document and provided their support to the “Open Letter.” This was done without providing the community an opportunity to give testimony and lacked the degree of transparency strongly encouraged by both COCL and COAB.

Several COAB members have also continued to violate their own “Guidelines for Maintaining Common Ground,” leading to a number of instances where members of the COAB and/or community have felt disrespected, threatened, and unsafe. Specifically, examples of recent problematic conduct in light of COAB’s “Guidelines for Maintaining Common Ground” include the following:

1. Personal attacks, name-calling, and violating people’s personal space: Various community members as well as COAB members have resorted to name-calling when expressing frustration and disagreement with others. For example, individuals involved in this process, including the COAB Chair, COCL, Subcommittee members, police advisors, and the public have been called names such as “fascists,” “Nazi’s,” “pigs,”—and other names inappropriate for print, and have been allowed to physically surround or get into the personal space of COAB members or leaders to intimidate them.

2. Overt Disrespect for Diverse Perspectives: Paragraph 142 of the Settlement Agreement calls for fifteen voting members of the COAB and five police officers from the Portland Police Bureau to serve as advisors to COAB. Although they are authorized by the Agreement to participate, the police advisors have experienced overt hostility and disrespect at COAB and sub-committee meetings. We would expect COAB members to encourage and model respectful listening, even towards police officers. Furthermore, policing is a complex matter and the COAB members with limited knowledge of law enforcement organizations could benefit significantly by listening to, and asking questions of, the police advisors. While we share the view that police reforms are needed, the views of the officers have not been received and considered in a way that facilitates the development of such reforms.

3. Refusal to Support the COAB Chair: As all involved in this work know, the issues we are discussing have a profound impact on the community and often result in strong and conflicting opinions from diverse populations. Given the potential for conflict, it is particularly important to abide by the established processes. This includes respecting the Chair’s efforts to move through an agenda and to maintain order. This has not occurred. Former Chair Kathleen Saadat’s efforts to keep the meeting on track were often met with resistance and outright defiance. Her efforts to maintain order in a meeting – and protect individuals who were being personally attacked – have similarly been ignored. For example, at the June meeting, Chair Saadat instructed all members to leave the room in response to personal attacks. Some members refused to do so, which sent the message that the attacks were acceptable. On top of this, there have been instances of insubordination from some members of the COAB, openly criticizing the Chair as she was attempting to maintain order. This defiance sent the message that if a COAB member will not abide by the authority of the Chair to run an orderly meeting, there is no requirement of the audience to abide either.

Reasons for Separation of COCL and COAB

Managing the problems associated with the COAB, as articulated above, has consumed the vast majority of the COCL’s time, including both the Portland and Chicago offices. Investigating and responding to complaints (against each other and by community members against them) is one example of time-consuming work that has nothing whatsoever to do with assessing compliance. One consequence of this dysfunction is the reduced capacity for COCL to be able to evaluate PPB’s and the City’s compliance with the Settlement Agreement. Resources to perform all the expected functions of the COCL are already stretched thin. We believe that any further reductions in the quality and quantity of our compliance assessments as a result of COAB issues would be a disservice to the people of Portland. The Portland community deserves an in-depth analysis of the level of compliance by the PPB and the City, which the COCL has done, but with repeated interruptions because of these dual responsibilities.

The persistent issue of the independence of the COAB is another reason for requesting this separation. As describe earlier, since the inception of the COAB, various COAB members and members of the community have argued that the COAB should be completely independent from the COCL in evaluating compliance with the Settlement Agreement. In response, members of COCL, DOJ, and the City have informed such petitioners that issues of data sharing, information redaction, and confidentiality would render such a petition impossible. While this was understood by a number of COAB members, others have maintained that such complete investigatory powers are desired. The priority of independence in the eyes of some members of COAB, despite the above issues, has undermined the current relationship between COCL and COAB. Thus, while we do not believe COAB should be an independent monitor due to the above logistical considerations and due to considerable redundancy with the work of the COCL and DOJ, we do believe this body should be independent from the COCL so that any concerns about COCL control are eliminated.

Furthermore, in past reports, we have refrained from assessing the work of the COAB that is required by the Settlement Agreement. Due to the Agreement’s direction that we chair the COAB, we have maintained that for us to evaluate the work of the COAB would be a conflict of interest. Thus, we have been unable to “make recommendations to the City regarding measures necessary to ensure full and timely implementation of [the] Agreement” (Par. 161) as they relate to the responsibilities of the COAB. By separating the COCL from the COAB, we will be able to assess whether the COAB’s responsibilities have been met and whether this has resulted in an improved relationship between the community and the police.

Details of Separation Proposal

As noted above, we believe the extent of damage done to this point prohibits restoration of the relationship between COCL and COAB as currently defined in the Settlement Agreement. As the result of nearly two years of ambiguity, disrespect, and willful undermining of the COCL’s authority to run the COAB, we are requesting the Settlement Agreement be amended to separate the COCL from the COAB.

As for a plan of separation, we are suggesting a two-step process to address the deficiencies of the COAB. These steps include (1) a hiatus in COAB activity until the Parties, with community input, can reach an agreement on the future operations and function of the COAB and (2) amending the Settlement Agreement to modify the relationship between the COCL and COAB. For each, we provide a plan of action for the consideration of the Parties.

As long as some COAB members willingly violate the Settlement Agreement, Public Meetings Law, and its own approved by-laws, the board will not be a legitimate mechanism of community engagement. Thus any action taken by the COAB, as currently operating, will be questioned by the community and all stakeholders as to whether this body reflects the beliefs and opinions of the Portland community and is acting in a fair and just manner on behalf of the entire community.

We are requesting that the responsibilities of the COAB, including the development of the CEO Plan and the Par. 152 meetings with the Chief, Commissioner, Commanders, Neighborhood Response Teams, and Officer of Neighborhood Involvement Crime Prevention, be delayed until the COAB’s role has been better defined. In the interim, some members of the COAB may want to continue their planned work on community engagement through focus groups with COCL assistance, but otherwise, we do not see public meetings and agenda setting for the full COAB as the way to proceed at this point. We understand that delaying such crucial activities of the COAB ultimately delays the ability of the community to interact with PPB and provide necessary input. However, we have been consistent in our belief that the quality of work is far more important than its expediency.

During this hiatus, we believe the Parties and various stakeholders should convene to redesign the COAB with respect to its mission and operation. This hiatus will also provide opportunity for improving the system of selecting, training, replacing, and removing COAB members. For all things related to the COAB, there have been repeated calls for more clarity and direction. These calls have come from COCL, the community, and the COAB itself. We believe that a hiatus provides a necessary pause so that these considerations might be discussed without new issues continually emerging.

Until such considerations can be addressed, we will also be suspending our search for a COAB chair to replace Kathleen Saadat. Given the current uncertainty regarding the direction of the COAB and COCL’s relationship to the board, we do not feel it wise to expend resources on a potentially inconsequential search. Upon the agreement of the Parties and other stakeholders, we will reconsider whether this is a necessary endeavor.

In order to limit the length of the COAB’s hiatus, we request the Settlement Agreement be amended as soon as possible. For the consideration of the Parties, we offer the following suggested changes to the Agreement to reflect the separation of the COCL and COAB. These changes include language regarding the preparation of semi-annual reports by the COCL, while keeping quarterly presentations to the COAB. (This change was supported by the COAB and the Parties as the preferred approach). We have identified the particular Section and Paragraph where we believe changes are required. Where words are italicized, this indicates new language to either be inserted or to replace previous language of the Agreement.

SECTION IX. COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND CREATION OF COMMUNITY OVERSIGHT AND ADVISORY BOARD

Par. 142: “…fifteen (15) voting members and five (5) advisory members (removing the phrase “and the COCL”).

Par. 142(b): “The COAB’s membership will come from a reasonably broad spectrum of the community, such as: areas of expertise, advocacy experience, community involvement, profession, education, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, age, religion, mental or physical disability and geographic identification. COAB members, including Advisory Members, must live, work, worship, or attend school in the City of Portland. In addition to the above considerations, COAB members, including Advisory Members, must have the following qualifications:

i. No actual or perceived conflict of interest with the City of Portland;

ii. A demonstrated willingness to work collaboratively with members of the community, PPB, and other members of the COAB;
iii. An appreciation of individuals with differing opinions and backgrounds; and

iv. A demonstrated willingness to adhere to the requirements of the Settlement Agreement, Public Meetings Law, and COAB bylaws and guidelines for maintaining common ground.

Par. 154: “COAB shall meet as needed to accomplish their objectives as set forth in this Agreement. All COAB meetings shall be open to the public. In addition, COAB shall attend semi-annual meetings with the COCL as provided in Par. 163. To the extent that COAB meetings are subject to the Oregon Public Meetings Law, or similar regulatory or statutory requirements, the City shall be responsible to give advice necessary to the COAB to ensure compliance with those laws and agrees to represent COAB in any challenges regarding compliance with those laws.

Par. 155: “The City shall provide COAB members with appropriate training necessary to understand their roles and responsibilities under this Agreement as well as to comply with requirements of City and State law.

X. AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT

Par. 162: The COCL shall prepare semi-annual, written, public reports detailing PPB’s compliance with, and implementation of, each substantive provision of this Agreement.

Par. 163: “The COCL shall hold open town hall meetings on a semi-annual basis…The COAB shall ensure that the time and location of these semi-annual town hall meetings are well publicized…These semi-annual meetings shall facilitate the sharing of information on the Agreement and its implementation…”

NEW PARAGRAPHS TO BE ADDED

In addition to the COCL’s semi-annual town hall meetings as provided in Par. 163, the COCL shall meet with the COAB on a quarterly basis to present updates to PPB’s compliance with, and implementation of, this Agreement. During such meetings, the COAB and community may ask questions related to the work of the COCL and the COCL shall be responsible for providing responses to questions and recommendations within 30 days.

In order to facilitate the work of the COAB, the COAB may request access to PPB and City staff, employees, facilities, and documents that the COAB deems reasonably necessary to carry out its duties. In weighing the reasonableness of COAB’s request, the City and PPB may consider attorney-client privilege, interference with daily operations, required resources, matters of confidentiality, Oregon Public Records Law, and other considerations deemed important by the City and PPB. Should a request by the COAB for access to staff, employees, facilities, or documents be denied by the City or PPB, the COAB shall have the ability to appeal the denial to DOJ. The DOJ shall make a final determination on the reasonableness of the COAB’s request as well as the reasonableness of the City/PPB’s denial.

When the COAB makes formal recommendations to the City or DOJ, the COAB can expect timely responses to these recommendations.

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Presentation on US DOJ v City of Portland

For those who missed last week’s presentation to the Eastside Democratic Club in NE Portland on the history and future of US DOJ v City of Portland, here’s the PPT you can download as a PDF.

US DOJ v. City of Portland – History, Overview, Status (PDF)

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$20 Million in Funding for Mental Health Housing Available

From The Lund Report – July 2016

Oregon Housing and Community Services is now accepting proposals for $20 million in state funds to develop mental health and substance use housing across Oregon.
Jan Johnson

Affordable housing is in short supply particularly for people living with mental illness and addictions. The $20 million boost can definitely make a difference.

“The money is there. Go find your partners, and go get it,” Chris Bouneff, executive director of NAMI Oregon told The Lund Report. Such housing is desperately needed all across Oregon. “Our hope is that as many communities as can will apply.”

During the 2015 legislative session, securing incentive funding for mental health housing, including crisis respite, was NAMI’s top priority. Oregon started with $5 million from an additional cigarette tax to leverage dollars for such housing development.

Because this early funding showed the concept worked, the state is making $20 million available, again hoping to leverage state dollars to encourage housing developers and mental health providers and advocates to build a range of housing options.

The original $5 million provided incentives to get $20-$25 million of housing for those with mental illness. Bouneff hopes the $20 million can pay for 20-30 percent of future projects, spurring another $50 million to $75 million in new housing.

Applications are due by August 29. Details are available on the Oregon Housing and Community Services website.

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Specially-Priced $5 ARTS tickets for Oregon Trail Card Holders

Show Your Oregon Trail Card and buy $5 tickets to many of Portland’s best music, theater and dance groups.

In January of 2011, twelve of Portland’s classical music organizations, operating under the auspices of Go Classical PDXand convened by All Classical 89.9, announced a pilot project called “Music for All” offering $5.00 tickets to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) card holders.  Preliminary numbers for the six-month pilot program totaled 1,410 tickets used.  Funding for the program was provided by the Regional Arts and Culture Council, Work for Art and the City of Portland.  Plans immediately began to include additional arts organizations in the next iteration of the program and to expand it beyond classical music. The result, “Arts for All” was launched on October 3, 2011.

afa2Q & A Guide

Q. Who can buy $5 Tickets?
A. Anyone who gets food stamps (SNAP) and has the Oregon Trail Card.
Q. How many tickets can I buy for $5 each?
A. Two per Oregon Trail Card, but ask the group if you can buy more.
Q. Where do I get $5 tickets?
A. Contact the group. They will tell you where and when you can buy them.
Q. How do I buy the tickets?
A. You must show your Oregon Trail Card at the time of purchase and pay with cash or credit card. SNAP credit on the Oregon Trail Card cannot be used to buy tickets.
Q. Which concerts have $5 tickets?
A. Check with the individual group (see below) to find out when their concerts are and if $5 tickets are available.

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Lifeways starts construction on psychiatric care facility in Hermiston

From The East Oregonian, July 2016

Eastern Oregon residents experiencing a psychiatric crisis will no longer be sent across the state to receive help after construction is finished on an acute psychiatric care facility in Hermiston.

Lifeways 2Lifeways, which provides mental health and addiction services to the region, broke ground on the new 16-bed Aspen Springs facility on Wednesday. It is expected to become operational in spring 2017.

“This is a great day for us,” Lifeways CEO Judy Cordeniz told the crowd.

Good Shepherd Medical Center CEO Dennis Burke applauded Lifeways for taking the “bold step” of upgrading their original plans from a residential treatment facility to a regional acute psychiatric facility.

That type of secure facility can take care a step beyond residential treatment facilities such as McNary Place in Hermiston, providing the most intensive level of mental health care, including hospital-level crisis care for a per-bed cost cheaper than the Oregon State Hospital.

“Having a facility like this is an investment, a significant investment, and I very much expect to see a return on it,” Burke said.

The need for such facilities is great. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, Oregon’s number of psychiatric beds per 100,000 people dropped from 28.8 in 2009 to 8.7 in 2014 — the fourth fewest in the country. The result is that local residents in need of in-patient treatment after a severe mental health crisis are often sent to the other side of the state because there are no beds available closer to home.

Cordeniz said Lifeways is pursuing certification from the state to allow the facility to take Medicare patients, which has become crucial as Baby Boomers continue to retire.

The project’s construction budget is expected to run to about $4.3 million, with an annual operating cost of about $2.8 million. Greater Oregon Behavioral Health and the Eastern Oregon Human Services Consortium contributed $500,000 in seed money for the project.

Lifeways CFO Steve Jensen said the facility should create about 35 family-wage jobs when completed.

Greg Schneider, the former Lifeways CEO who helped get the project off the ground, said building a 16-bed facility in Hermiston to allow people in crisis to stay closer to home was a “no-brainer.”

“I think this will be great for the community, and for Lifeways,” he said.

The facility will be located at 1212 Linda Avenue and will be considered part of the Good Shepherd Health Care System campus. According to information handed out at the groundbreaking, Good Shepherd Medical Center will collaborate with Lifeways to provide “general ancillary hospital services and restore the availability of community-based psychiatric hospital services for our community, lost with the closure of Blue Mountain Recovery Center as a hold facility and state hospital unit.”

Financing of the project is being handled by Zions Bank, design by Pinnacle Architecture and construction by W.C. Construction and various local subcontractors.

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What are the main causes of homelessness? Public weighs in

Portland Tribune, June 28, 2016

Eds. Note – this is a completely useless article filled with assumptions and misguided notions of help, drifting quickly in the moral maze of civil liberties. The author does not understand the subject. Yet we feel compeled to include it as a snapshot of what goes on for thinking about the subject of “homelessness.”

Homeless manIs a lack of affordable housing the root cause of homelessness?

Some local affordable housing advocates are making that argument as they press Portland and Multnomah County leaders to spend millions of dollars to create more affordable housing.

But most people in Oregon and the Portland area don’t agree with that premise, according to a recent survey by DHM Research.

READDHM Panel Survey, May 2016 (PDF, 117KB)

Although the vast majority of respondents believe the state and region is facing a housing crisis, most believe homelessness is best viewed as a separate issue that requires other solutions.

When asked why people end up on the streets, Oregonians are much more likely to cite a lack of jobs and social services than a scarcity of affordable housing.

Homelessness poll graphic 1Similarly, most respondents don’t believe that building more affordable housing is the best government response to homelessness. Far more believe limited resources should first be spent to increase the number of emergency shelters and transitional facilities.

Such views could present a challenge for those pushing the Portland City Council to refer a $258.4 million affordable housing bond measure to the Nov. 8 general election ballot. It would increase property taxes 42 cents for each $1,000 of assessed value.

“There’s a disconnect between what the public thinks about homelessness and what the leaders are proposing,” says DHM Research Vice President and Political Director John Horvick. “That doesn’t mean such a ballot measure won’t pass, but there needs to be more of a conversation about the problems and the solutions.”

In fact, most respondents to the DHM survey do not believe homelessness is a problem that can be solved. Sixty-seven percent of statewide respondents and 60 percent of metro respondents agree that even if we make changes to society, some people will always be homeless. Only 30 percent of statewide respondents and 34 percent of metro respondents thought it could be ended completely.

Market driving up housing costs

According to DHM’s online survey of 687 Oregonians taken in May, 83 percent agree the state is in a housing crisis caused by rapidly increasing rents and home prices. The number is slightly higher in the metro region at 86 percent.

Most respondents agree the affordable housing crisis is driven primarily by market forces. Statewide, 37 percent say the market is reacting to an increase in population and desirability, and no one person or thing is to blame. A smaller group, 26 percent, accuses people with higher incomes moving into Oregon and driving up prices. An even smaller group, 11 percent, say developers aren’t building housing that most Oregonians can afford.

The numbers are similar in the metro area, although 12 percent blame the urban growth boundary for limiting the land supply and driving up housing costs, while only 8 percent do so statewide.

Homelessness poll graphic 2Whatever the cause, 76 percent of statewide respondents agree it has affected the number of people experiencing homelessness. Even more — 84 percent — in the metro area agree.

But, given a choice, 68 percent of respondents are more likely to agree that homelessness is best viewed as a separate issue from affordable housing. Only 28 percent were more likely to agree that the number of those experiencing homelessness is directly related to the cost of housing.

The split was not that different in the metro area, with 65 percent viewing homelessness as a separate issue, and 31 percent saying it is directly related to the lack of affordable housing.

Asked to pick the main causes of homelessness in Oregon, the largest block — 38 percent — chose unemployment. It was followed by personal choice, poverty, the lack of mental illness services, low-paying jobs, and the lack of substance abuse services. The lack of affordable housing came in seventh with only 22 percent.

The rankings were somewhat different in the metro area, however. But even here, the lack of affordable housing was not the top choice.

Here, unemployment tied with the lack of mental illness services for first place at 35 percent each. In second place was poverty at 34 percent. Then the lack of affordable housing tied with the personal choice at 25 percent each. They were closely followed by low-paying jobs and the lack of substance abuse treatment at 23 percent each.

“The public does not believe there is one main cause of homelessness. They think there is a range of causes, and some of them involve personal behaviors,” Horvick says.

When it comes to government responses to homelessness, most respondents did not think creating more affordable housing was the most effective policy. Statewide, 42 percent of respondents chose increasing emergency shelters and transitional facilities for the homeless. Providing assistance for those currently at risk of losing their homes was second with 18 percent, followed by creating more affordable housing at 17 percent.

Creating more affordable housing was ranked higher in the metro area at 23 percent. But it still trailed the 34 percent who chose increasing emergency shelters and transitional facilities first. Providing rental assistance to those currently living on the streets and in shelters came in third at 21 percent.

Homelessness poll graphic 3 - housing crisis

Bond measure has chance

Despite the questions concerning homelessness, the poll suggests an affordable housing bond measure could pass in Portland. Fifty-nine percent of respondents in the metro area think such a measure could improve housing affordability. Of those, 21 percent think it could improve affordability “a lot.”

But that does not mean a bond measure is their No. 1 choice. To the contrary, requiring developers to include affordable units in their projects was favored by 75 percent. The City Council is in the process of adopting such a requirement, following the repeal of the statewide ban on so-called inclusionary zoning by the 2016 Oregon Legislature.

Rent control policies were favored by 70 percent of metro respondents, with more than half, 38 percent, saying they would improve affordability “a lot.”

Right 2 Dream homeless camp

Right 2 Dream homeless camp

The only two options offered in the poll that fared worse than a bond measure were a ban on no-cause evictions at 58 percent, followed by increased restrictions and stronger enforcement on short-term rentals like AirBnB at 32 percent.

Even if Portland voters are willing to pass a bond measure, only 13 percent of metro respondents think the city should be most responsible for addressing affordable housing needs. More, 17 percent, say county and regional governments should. Even more, 27 percent, say the state government should.

And 20 percent say no government should be responsible for addressing affordable housing needs. They say the housing market can and will correct itself in the future.

But if the measure does pass, the largest block of metro respondents believes the money will go to the right place. It will be spent by an agency dedicated to housing, the Portland Housing Bureau, which was favored by 44 percent. The next largest block, 23 percent, thought affordable housing should be driven by the market, not developed by government agencies. After that, 16 percent thought it should be managed locally by whatever local agency is best equipped.

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