Mental Health Association of Portland

Oregon's independent and impartial mental health advocate

Still waiting for someone to take the lead on mental health in Portland

Posted by admin2 on 24th June 2014

From Steve Duin of The Oregonian, June 24, 2014

I had my come-to-Jason moment in April, right after Jim Francesconi threatened to make mental health a critical issue in his campaign for Multnomah County chair.  Ten minutes with Jason Renaud convinced me Francesconi knew jack about the problem.

The rest of the hour was taken up by how stupidly little I did.

Renaud, on the board of the Mental Health Association of Portland, wasn’t surprised: “The only people intrinsically interested in mental-health issues are sick themselves, and trying to sort it out with God; have family members with mental illness; or view it as a civil-rights issue.

“If you’re not in one of those three categories,” Renaud says, “you distance yourself.”

You have good company in Portland: local political leaders.  The Multnomah County chair, Renaud argues, “is the most important person in the mental-health business.  The way the county commission is set up, the chair has all the power, and they manage the biggest health-care provider in the state, other than the penitentiary.

“What they do, others would follow, if they will only lead.  We’ve never had a county chair who took this seriously.”  Diane LinnJeff CogenTed Wheeler, now serving as state treasurer?  “Ted took this seriously when he was pinned down,” Renaud says, “but that’s how he did everything.”

That cautious detachment is understandable. Few of those ravaged by addiction and mental illness vote; fewer make campaign contributions.  Beyond the length of the line at the Portland Rescue Mission, success is hard to measure.

“It takes a graduate-school education to know how to get around (the system),” Renaud says.  “The people who can who aren’t crazy themselves are rare.”

Renaud is a recovering alcoholic, and painfully blunt.  He has seen mental illness take a tool on his family members.  He produced “Alien Boy,” the documentary on the life and 2006 death of James Chasse, and has written critically of the role of Portland police – “viciousness and thuggery” — in that death.

But in the aftermath of the June 12 death of Nick Davis, shot by Portland cops on the Springwater Corridor when Davis confronted them with a crowbar, Renaud sounds a different tone.

“In a mental-health crisis, if police are involved, a lot of other opportunities to intervene have gone by,” Renaud says.  “(Davis) had been in crisis for years, and left to his own devices.  He didn’t get well.  He didn’t become a good citizen.  Where’s the outreach worker walking up and down the Springwater Corridor, asking, ‘How can we get you out of this situation?’ That may start with some dry socks.”

Renaud credits the cops with some soul-searching in the wake of James Chasse and the Department of Justice inquiry: “(Police Chief) Mike Reese is a big part of that.”

And he believes Deborah Kafoury, the new Multnomah County chair, has the instincts and background to focus on the crisis, once she properly frames the issue.

“Her agenda is homelessness,” Renaud says, “which is a euphemism for untreated addiction and untreated mental illness by developers who want to line their pockets.”

Too many homeless advocates, he argues, would rather talk about poverty and social justice than mental illness: “Their solution is to build apartments, which just gets the problem off the streets.  That’s what the Chamber of Commerce wants, but at this point in the 21st century, that’s not sufficient.”

What is sufficient? A long-overdue audit of mental health and addiction services. An agency geared to accommodate the irrational, inconvenient needs of the patients, not the limited attention span (9 a.m – 5 p.m., weekdays only) of the staff.

A fresh focus on how public-health services are delivered at the jail: “Almost everyone who is arrested is drunk, loaded or mentally ill,” Renaud says.  And as long as they’re in custody …

A system run by professional administrators rather than the psychologists and social workers who lack business experience.  A permanently unlocked door at Hooper Detox. The occasional outreach along the Springwater Corridor and the other urban campsites.

And a county chair who refuses to blink: “If the chair says we need to do better, that we can’t put this off generation after generation, it may get repaired.”

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Gun owners with mental illness need a storage plan

Posted by Jenny on 21st June 2014

By Jason Renaud, The Skanner, June 20, 2014

shotgunMany legal gun owners with mental illness may not store their guns safely, and for some, there are times when secure storage outside of the home is required.

What to do with a gun when your home is not safe?  What to do with a gun when YOU are not safe?

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 26.2 percent of Americans have a diagnosable mental illness – that’s over 82 million people. And, like it or not, the vast majority of people with mental illness have the constitutional right to own a gun.

Only a few Americans are prohibited from gun ownership. They include those who have been involuntarily committed or have been judged “guilty but insane” of a crime – a small percentage of the total.

Tens of millions of others have the same right as you do to own a firearm, and certainly some among them will exercise that right.

Look at it another way: according to the General Social Survey, 34 percent of Americans already own a gun, or 106.7 million.  We could estimate that 26.2 percent of them – just short of 28 million – will also have a diagnosable mental illness.

That’s more than the population of Texas.

The vast majority of gun owners with mental illness are responsible, never commit a crime, and take gun security seriously.

That’s why gun owners with mental illness need a gun storage plan – because they’re responsible, law-abiding and serious. But they also know there may be times in their life where gun violence is a risk – mainly to themselves – and it’s unsafe to have a firearm accessible.

Local gun shops advised me there is no private gun storage business in the area. General storage companies rent storage space by the month, but those same weapons experts wouldn’t store their guns in a rental storage unit: it’s not sufficiently secure, or sufficiently insured, for firearms.

When asked how to store a gun, the experts had two pieces of advice. The first was adult Americans should be armed at all times. The second was if you can’t keep a gun safe, you should sell it. Both are extreme and impractical solutions.

If you’re a gun owner who’s entering a period of crisis and needs safe storage for your weapons, here are some solutions you can reasonably and practically accomplish.

For a single pistol, any quality gun shop can sell you a two-lock pistol safe. It looks like a small tool case and has both a combination lock and a key lock. Cost is about $160. Double lock your pistol in the case and give the key to a trusted friend or family member for the duration. Talk with them clearly and frankly about when to return the key – and when not to return the key.

Here’s another thing you can do.

Call your local police bureau’s non-emergency number and ask for an officer to come by your home and take your gun into secure storage. The service is free, available for as many weapons as you want stored, for up to 90 days. The officer who comes by can give you the details, and will provide you with case number and inventory receipt to retrieve your property.

Finally, here’s some advice for contacting the police.

Call ahead and tell them you have a weapon you would like taken into inventory.  There’s no need to tell officers on the phone or when they arrive about mental illness or drug or alcohol use. That is not required – or expected. Keep it simple. The dispatcher may ask you what clinic you go to or what medicines you take. Just decline to answer.

When officers arrive at your home, leave your weapon in the house, keep the door open, and come outside to meet them. Show your hands at all times. Show the officers your identification. Follow the officer’s instructions. For their safety and yours, officers may ask you to sit or lie down on the ground while they secure the weapon.

Keep cool, keep calm. And have a plan for that gun.

Jason Renaud is a longtime mental health advocate with the Mental Health Association of Portland.

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Portland Police Reform and a Pair of Missed Milestones

Posted by admin2 on 5th June 2014

From the Portland Mercury, June 4, 2014

By now, based on the wishful thinking of the past few months, Portland City Hall ought to have marked a pair of major and incredibly consequential police reform milestones.

Amanda Fritz

Amanda Fritz

A much-contested reform deal between the city, the Portland Police Association, and the US Department of Justice—calling for new training, tighter use-of-force policies, and speedier misconduct investigations—seemed destined to receive US District Court Judge Michael Simon’s approving signature back in April.

READ – DOJ v. City of Portland Settlement Agreement

Which is about when the city had aimed to start vetting some of the (hopefully) highly accomplished applicants vying to do the difficult work of overseeing those reforms. The posting for the position—officially billed as a “compliance officer/community liaison” (COCL)—optimistically placed the job’s “anticipated start date” as sometime this month.

But actually, so far (and maybe unsurprisingly), neither of those things has been checked off the city’s list. As a result, one of the most important promises of federal police reform—real civilian oversight—remains unfulfilled and in a troubling state of limbo.

Simon was all set to approve the reform deal this spring, provided he got his way on one seemingly small point: the right to compel annual updates on the reforms in his courtroom.

But instead of cheerily saying yes, the city and its rank-and-file police union have refused Simon’s request. And, despite the weeks he gave them to bargain over a plausible alternative, they’ve been unable to strike a deal. Now Simon will decide next month whether to hold his nose and accept the deal anyway—or cast the whole thing down.

But that’s still better than the slow-going selection process for the COCL post. Despite plans to air three finalists way back in April, the city is still combing through applicants and doesn’t appear remotely close to reaching a list that small.

READ – job posting for Portland’s COCL position

Sources say modest tensions, kept very quiet, have arisen between police accountability advocates.

Though the police reform deal emphasizes improving police treatment of Portlanders with mental illness, mental health advocates, so far, say the hiring process has favored advocates more interested in addressing racial profiling. Those complaints have convinced Commissioner Amanda Fritz to lengthen the vetting process.

“We’ve not had mental health communities at the table,” Fritz says. “We’re not going forward until they are.”

But maybe worse, sources say, is the caliber of the current applicants. They point to cities like Seattle, which hired a nationally respected police consultant to oversee its reform process, and they ruefully note that no one similarly decorated has applied in Portland. Sources also say the pool tilts more toward experience with racial issues than mental health.

Twelve résumés have been pulled for further screening. Fritz says she’s confident the city will cull that list down to three, and then one.

Mental health advocates appreciate Fritz’s efforts.

“Amanda is trying to find an easier path to make this work,” says Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland.

But those advocates aren’t so sure it will work—they’re worried it’s going to be too little, too late.

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Juliet Follansbee points to progress at PSRB, with more than ever living in community, but others sound cautious note

Posted by Jenny on 12th April 2014

Street Roots, April 12, 2014

oregon-state-hospital04On the desk in Juliet Follansbee’s downtown Portland office is a thick book of Oregon laws. It contains only a few sentences that grant the state agency she operates tremendous power over the lives of hundreds of Oregonians.

In May, Follansbee was made interim executive director of the Psychiatric Security Review Board, a position she was permanently appointed to in November. Created by Oregon lawmakers in 1977, the 10-member interdisciplinary board has authority over individuals who have successfully asserted the “guilty except for insanity” defense, meaning they’ve committed a crime, but because of a mental illness or developmental disability did not fully understand what they were doing at the time.

Follansbee takes the reins of the PSRB at a time when the state has aspired to shift its mental health system to more community-based rather than institutional settings. Follansbee says that the PSRB has more resources to place people in community settings than ever before. Mental health advocates are also hoping that Follansbee will set a new tone for the PSRB, which some say was marked by a climate of fear and intimidation fostered by her predecessor.

Follansbee says she’s open to changing the PSRB’s processes and operations. She also wants to help standardize training and foster a collaborative approach with community health care providers. She says she wants the PSRB to accommodate change, the biggest of which is the increase in resources to treat clients in community settings.

“We (serve) just a small portion of the people who receive community mental health services,” says Follansbee.

Being placed under the PSRB, says Follansbee, who previously ran a program that restored the gun rights of Oregonians whose mental health had prevented them from owning firearms, is different from a civil commitment, where someone is involuntarily placed in a mental health setting. “This is something that our clients have chosen to do because they thought that they would do better in a mental health setting,” she says.

However, those who successfully assert the insanity defense grant the PSRB sweeping control over their lives. Depending on the severity of the crime committed, the PSRB (in consultation with community-based mental health providers) determines the settings clients are released into along with what sort of treatment and supervision they receive. Some clients living in more independent settings may have to check in twice a day with mental health workers. If someone is placed under the purview of the PSRB, odds are it will have authority over them longer than if they had gone to prison. Sometimes they will remain under the board’s authority for life. For most PSRB clients, the first stop after successfully pleading insanity is the Oregon State Hospital.

“We have the least amount of people in the hospital than we ever have, and the most amount of people in the community than we ever have,” says Follansbee. “And the reality is that whenever the hospital says someone is ready to be placed on conditional release, the board almost always approves it.”

Of the 559 people under the PSRB’s jurisdiction, 385 are on conditional release.

In 2011, lawmakers passed legislation that reformed the PSRB system and created a separate board run by the Oregon State Hospital to determine when patients, who haven’t committed violent crimes, can be released. Follansbee, who says there are about 90 people under the separate board, describes this reform as positive, saying that it offers patients one more avenue to obtain conditional release.

At the State Hospital, patients are subject to widely varying degrees of supervision, ranging from closely monitored settings to living semi-independently in group homes on the facility’s grounds. In late March, a patient at the State Hospital who had pleaded guilty except for insanity to an attempted murder charge walked away.

Rebeka Gipson-King, spokesperson for the Oregon Health Authority, says that people are often surprised that some patients live semi-independently at the State Hospital.

“The State Hospital is not a punishment,” she says. “They are sent there to get better.”

However, some mental health advocates have seen things differently.

“You have the use of the State Hospital as a punishment, a very expensive punishment,” says Chris Bouneff, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Oregon. Bouneff says that under the PSRB’s previous executive director, Mary Claire Buckley, clients would be sent back to the State Hospital for relatively minor infractions, such as failing a drug test, which could be addressed in a less costly way. “It certainly wasn’t helping with the smooth operating of our mental health operation,” he says.

Patrick, who doesn’t want his real name used in this article because he’s still under the jurisdiction of the PSRB, says that his defense lawyer talked him into pleading guilty except for insanity to what he says was a bogus burglary charge. His lawyer told him he would spend a few months in the State Hospital. Instead he got 10 years of being under the PSRB’s jurisdiction.

After spending three years in the State Hospital, he was released to a group home in Portland, where he says the threat of being sent back was used as a threat to keep residents in line.

“The overall structure is, if you bring an issue to your case monitor that could result in very negative things happening to you,” he says.

An investigation into allegations that Buckley was verbally abusive was dropped following her resignation this past summer. She was hired by the Portland Police Bureau as a policy analyst in November.

Follansbee wouldn’t speak to criticisms leveled against her predecessor, but she did say that she wants clients, victims and mental health advocacy organizations, which she refers to as “partners,” to be heard throughout the process.

“They often have competing interests and views,” she says, noting that stakeholders’ interests won’t always align. “That’s challenging, and one of the ways we want to work collaboratively is to build relationships where all of our stakeholders feel like they’re getting a fair shake.”

Although Follansbee says she doesn’t want to keep someone in the hospital unnecessarily, she says a cautious approach is still needed.

Oregon law directs the board to have “as its primary concern the protection of society” when making decisions regarding the conditional release or discharge of patients. And to get out of the hospital, patients still have to go through four separate layers of approval, all of which  Follansbee says are needed.

“The data suggests that slow incremental moves will give our clients the tools, so when they are no longer under our board, they can continue their stability,” says Follansbee. “It’s clear by our recidivism rate that when you’re under our board you’re going to remain stable.”

One thing that everyone agrees on is that the PSRB has been effective in carrying out its public safety mandate. The recidivism rate for the PSRB for the last 15 years is 2.66 percent. Of the 1,655 people who’ve obtained conditional release over the last 15 years, only 17 have committed new felonies.

“When you look at Mary Clare Buckley’s record and lack of recidivism, it’s clear that she didn’t take a lot of chances on people,” says Jason Renaud, spokesperson for the Mental Health Association of Portland.

“It seems like what happens when you have a strong personality in charge of an organization, the process just sort of fades,” says Bob Joondeph, the executive director of Disability Rights Oregon. Although the PSRB is designed to move carefully, he says, Follansbee has so far “brought a less hierarchical and more collaborative approach to making the process work the way it’s supposed to.”

Joondeph says that movies and TV have long fueled the notion that mentally ill people are dangerous and need to be locked up. He says that the PSRB should focus more on recovery and individuals under it should receive treatment in the least segregated settings possible, which he says the board doesn’t have the best track record on.

“It’s a difficult position to be in because public safety is our mandate,” says Follansbee. “It’s difficult to have everyone in our system happy with the results.”

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‘Broken promises’ at Fairness Hearing

Posted by Jenny on 19th February 2014

fedcourtjpg-b79072e75a265771The Portland Mercury, Feb. 19, 2014

It was billed as a signature piece of a proposed legal settlement meant to answer federal accusations that Portland police officers engage “in a pattern or practice” of using excessive force against people in mental-health crisis.

READOur spoken testimony at the Fairness Hearing

READOur written testimony submitted to Judge Simon

Working with the state and county—who control mental health funding in Oregon—the city would establish treatment facilities where people in crisis could either be dropped off by police officers or check in voluntarily. The city was so bullish, back when the provision was negotiated by ex-Mayor Sam Adams in 2012, city officials thought they might open the centers by summer 2013.

But on Tuesday, February 18, those officials and US Department of Justice attorneys offered an admission that advocates have long fretted over. It was during an hours-long “fairness hearing”—a key step before US District Court Judge Michael Simon either approves or rejects the settlement.

Not only are those treatment centers not even close to opening, but they might never open at all.Despite the centers’ promise of providing treatment and hopefully minimizing contact between cops and people in crisis, the call to build them is merely “aspirational,” according to a presentation aired in court by the feds.

“This agreement has no influence on those services,” said Chris Bouneff, director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Oregon.

The US Department of Justice had called Bouneff as a friendly witness. The state and county, he said, “are not at the table and there’s nothing to compel them to be at the table to increase the type of services necessary. That element will be missing in this agreement.”

Jonas Geissler, an attorney for the US Department of Justice’s civil rights division in Washington, DC, hammered that point earlier in the hearing.

“Those agencies may be beyond the current reach of this” proposed legal settlement, Geissler said.

That admission came early in Tuesday’s watershed court session—the first chance for the public to sound off about a deal many think should go further, and the most substantive chance yet for the city and the feds to defend the particulars they negotiated specifically to avoid a court trial.

Simon, the judge, says he’ll decide if he likes it as early as mid-March.

That deal—which eventually gained the assent of the Portland Police Association—includes changes to how police are trained and use force. It gave way to the creation of a special mental health unit. It’s also fueled changes in oversight that have long been criticized for failing to empower civilians.

But Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland reacted dourly to the clarification about the treatment centers during a break in the proceedings. He invoked the names of Keaton Otis, Aaron Campbell, and James Chasse Jr.—all struggling with mental-health issues, all killed by Portland police during the past decade.

“What they needed was a safe sanctuary. I’m not sure training and policy would have made a difference,” Renaud says. “Those facilities would make a brick-and-mortar difference. ‘Aspirational’ is a broken promise.”

Ellen Osoinach, a deputy city attorney who helped negotiate the deal, told the court during the city’s presentation that the hazy commitment to building those facilities was intentional.

“Rather than obligate the city to run a mental-health facility,” she said, “the city accepted a requirement to work in cooperation with other government agencies.”

And as the city sees it, it’s lived up to its commitment, Osoinach said. For the past few years, the council has including a call for increased mental-health funding in its state and federal legislative lobbying wish lists.

“The city has followed through on that commitment by lobbying aggressively for increased funding for mental-health services for the past three years,” she told the court.

It was maybe the most surprising development to emerge from the long-promised hearing, the likely fault lines of which had been clear for months.

As expected, watchdog groups—including the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform (AMA) and Portland Copwatch—clamored for more robust civilian oversight. Copwatch urged the judge to alter the deal before approving it—something Simon says he’s not allowed to do. He can only say yes or no, if he decides what’s presented is “fair, adequate, and reasonable.”

The AMA said it supported the deal, but with reservations. Its members had hoped the feds would do away with a 48-hour window, enshrined in union agreements, that lets cops put off giving statements after using deadly force.

“We see the positive aspects as an opportunity to set a floor, not a ceiling. Not the end,” AMA President T. Allen Bethel told the courtroom. “This agreement must be monitored so that the city and the Portland Police Bureau can be held accountable by a higher and more powerful group than the city itself or the [police] association or the bureau.”

And groups representing black Portlanders—most notably the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, but also the Urban League of Portland and the AMA—reiterated their long-held disappointment the agreement sidestepped the concern that led the AMA to seek a federal investigation in the first place: racial profiling. They were dismayed by testimony from a police consultant who said the feds looked at those claims, but set them aside because of a lack of data.

In all, Simon invited more than 60 people and organizations to testify. The hearing was expected to go on so long that Simon offered to stay until the dinner hour, and move some testimony to the following day.

Realistically, getting the mental-health facilities built has always been a long shot. The agreement instructed the city to work with Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs)—new health-care providers set up to manage federal health-care reform and help dispense Medicaid.

Working with the CCOs would help the city tap into that federal cash. Two meetings were held in 2012, late in Mayor Adams’ term, to get the CCOs on board. But the groups said they had to get their feet beneath them. Little has changed more than a year later.

The police bureau still wants a drop-off center—but figuring out who will fund and manage it, and what services it might offer, has been difficult. Traditionally, mental-health treatment is the purview of the county.

Captain Mike Marshman, the police bureau’s police reform czar, admits it’s been easier to work on the parts of the deal the bureau controls.

“Those discussions are going on” with the state and county, he says. “It’s a slow, slow process.”

Renaud started working with Mayor Charlie Hales‘ office on the idea last January. He was part of a task force that included county officials and Hales’ former public safety director, Baruti Artharee.

By November 2013, Renaud was ready to pitch Hales’ office for budget help. He said a 22-employee walk-in center would cost a little more than $2 million to start up and run for a year. The center was not included in the city’s most recent budget documents.

“There’s lots of money,” Renaud says. “It’s just being spent on other things. What happens the next time someone dies?”

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The Portland-Area Addresses that Keep Cops, Firefighters, and Paramedics Coming Back—Again and Again

Posted by admin2 on 15th January 2014

The 911 Files: The Portland-Area Addresses that Keep Cops, Firefighters, and Paramedics Coming Back—Again and Again

From the Portland Mercury, January 16, 2014

Life is good when simply walking outside doesn’t mean having to remember to carry a gun—you know, just in case. At the very least, it’s a sign things are getting better.

I’d been skulking around the Arbor Mobile Home Park—a faded Hooverville of double-wides, campers, and trailers off NE Killingsworth—and I’d finally found someone willing to tell me about the place: a guy heading out to check his mailbox.

He was blunt. And not scared by my notebook. He’d clearly seen worse.

“This was a Wild West show around here. It was a combat zone,” said the man, not so willing to give his name, but terribly willing to chat about everything else—thefts, shootings, stabbings, garbage in the streets, “scum” neighbors who deal drugs, and new hope thanks to some changes this summer.

He was willing to show me around. So I told him why I was there.


The Arbor, as quiet as it seemed on a gray weekday afternoon, had shown up quite prominently on a list of the 20 Portland addresses most responsible for 911 dispatches over the 12 months that ended last Halloween. Precisely 100 times in that span, data shows—about twice a week—a 911 call resulted in cops coming down to the park.

My guide wasn’t surprised. “I used to never walk around here without a gun,” he said way too breezily.

The Mercury, working with Commissioner Steve Novick‘s office and the Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications, had requested the 911 data last month in hopes of getting a better glimpse at some of the region’s most deeply rooted public safety challenges.

We thought the story might be about finding ways to save money at a time of budget wrangling and continued questions about city spending. Could officials save cash by proactively targeting certain addresses, thereby reducing disproportionate numbers of fire, medical, and police calls?

Maybe. But even if it’s good policy, it might not be worth the effort. Even the worst “offender” on the list—the Portland Rescue Mission, with its 345 dispatched calls—is responsible for just a fraction of a typical year’s hundreds of thousands of calls and dispatches. And many of these addresses already sit within the system’s crosshairs. Like the Arbor.

Instead, the data amounts to one more way to talk about problems and issues—like homelessness, gentrification, poverty, addiction, and crime—that Portland has come to know all too well.

“Some of these locations are simply going to generate a lot of calls through no fault of their own,” says Sergeant Greg Stewart of the Portland Police Bureau, referring especially to the handful of hospitals and assisted-living centers on the list. “Other locations serve a population that tends to create more public safety demands.

“We try to develop strategies that ensure individuals can receive services, remain safe but also not become an unsustainable drain on public safety resources.”


“It’s an easy target,” Jason Renaud, a volunteer with the Mental Health Association of Portland, says of the Portland Rescue Mission.

The building, presiding right where the Burnside Bridge touches down in Old Town, is infamous for its nightly queues of homeless Portlanders waiting for a chance at shelter or a meal.

Portland Rescue Mission wasn’t Renaud’s first guess for the top spot on the 911 list, but he allowed that it made sense. Of the 345 dispatches to the mission, only two-thirds were classified as medical.

“These are people who’ve gone without care for a long time. They’re cold, mad, and standing around. They’re often impaired. And that’s not a good mix,” Renaud says of the daily lines.

“Those are the lines that indicate whether community services are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. If that line goes down, I’ll feel better. But it never goes down.”

Alexa Mason, a spokeswoman for the Rescue Mission, says staff works with private security—like roaming Clean and Safe officers—to defuse problems before calling police. But sometimes, especially when someone’s in a mental health crisis, that’s not easy.

“Mental illness comes up a lot,” she says.

Mason also points to a rare service in the building’s lobby: a pay phone accessible 24 hours a day. Some people use it to report crimes. Others call for paramedics. And while staff will call 911 if needed, most people, if they can communicate, are expected to call for themselves.

“That’s probably why, particularly with medical issues, our numbers will be higher,” Mason says.

The Rescue Mission is hardly alone. Old Town and downtown, with high concentrations of shelter beds and subsidized and recovery housing, are disproportionately represented on the list.

Not far behind are places like the Greyhound bus station, Musolf Manor (a low-income 95-apartment complex on NW 3rd), and the Henry Building (recovery housing owned by Central City Concern).

Notably, the apartments for hard-luck addiction cases at Bud Clark Commons—which also houses a day center and shelter for the homeless—rank second on the list.

The Portland Tribune reported this month that drug problems are bad enough that city officials might declare the apartments, run by regional public housing agency Home Forward, a “nuisance.”

A housing official with Home Forward didn’t return calls as of press time.

But Tony Bernal of Transition Projects, the nonprofit that runs the Bud Clark Commons day center, says his agency is working up something that could help ease medical calls: stationing a nurse practitioner directly in the building.

“A lot of folks may use ERs or wait too long to go to health care providers,” he says. “We’re interested in being more proactive.”


The prevalence of assisted-living facilities and hospitals, along with shelters and public housing, isn’t terribly surprising. Medical calls account for nearly twice the number of police calls—and both dwarf fire and rescue calls.

People die. Or people nearly die. Or a crime victim shows up at a medical center, and an officer needs to come investigate.

Novick, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications, says the numbers aren’t high enough to take “dramatic” action like charging fees for ambulance and fire calls.

“It’s not like this is a huge percentage of our total,” he says.

But Novick thinks some conversations about reducing calls might be worthwhile. Multnomah County, he says, has hired outreach workers to talk to so-called “frequent fliers”—the common phrase for people who call up again and again for 911 and other services.

“It seems like it would make sense for someone to have a conversation like that with these organizations,” he says. “To the extent you have insurance companies paying for ambulance trips, they would have a financial incentive.”

Dealing with crime, compared to medical calls, is actually a much more direct challenge.

Stewart says North Precinct police officers have been working with Arbor Mobile Home Park in recent months. And residents say it’s gotten quieter. Maybe it’s because of new owners. Or maybe it’s because of a police raid—helped along by complaints and tips from neighbors—on a methamphetamine ring operating from an otherwise nondescript white trailer.

A woman nearby, with some 14 cameras protecting her trailer, remembers when her parents first moved to the park in the 1970s. It was tidy and a haven for retirees. Subleasing trailers, which blurs the lines of accountability, wasn’t allowed. That changed by the 1990s, she says. By 2006, things had gotten bad enough that the owners tried pushing a plan for condos.

Records don’t show it, but residents kept telling me the park had changed hands this summer, too. (The owners listed on the city’s property database couldn’t be reached for comment.)

The guy I spoke with, checking his mail, says he knows the park won’t ever be paradise. “We’re poor, and we try to take care of each other,” he says. That doesn’t mean it has to be hell.


The data also provides a predictable lesson on local geography—with some interesting findings mixed in nonetheless. Outer East Portland, from neighborhoods like Cully on out, was just as well represented as Old Town and downtown. Crime and poverty have been moving east for years, while neighborhoods closer in gentrify.

The Fred Meyer in Gateway—near Interstates 84 and 205, and just steps from the last eastbound stop serving the blue, red, and green MAX lines—was tops in all of Portland when it came to dispatched police calls. Its magic number was 142—essentially between two and three times a week.

The massive store, in the area for decades, sits on a giant parking lot and is a haven for people looking to keep warm and not pay for wireless internet. It’s also carved out a police substation where cops can hang out, write reports, or eat lunch.

Melinda Merrill, a spokeswoman for Fred Meyer, says security keeps an eye on shoppers inside and outside. But people shoplift. They sell drugs.

“They’re highly trained,” she says of the guards, “but they’re not police.”

Gateway is a big-box shopping destination. It’s also hardscrabble.

“It’s a bit of a perfect storm,” Merrill says, “with the neighborhood and the MAX.”

Not far behind, with 109 dispatched police calls according to the data, is the 7-Eleven at SE 82nd and Powell. Store workers and shoppers, most of them buying cheap alcohol and cigarettes on a recent weekday afternoon, called the parking lot a heroin market and way station for people recently released from the hospital or jail.

The store, which anchors a small strip mall, doesn’t have security. It calls the cops when things get out of hand, a manager hastily explained before annoyed customers interrupted his cigarette break.

Stewart, with the Portland police, says hotspots like the 7-Eleven can be helpful if they “perform a guardianship-type function,” calling in crimes and keeping cops clued in.

But sometimes, Stewart said, it’s the store and not the neighborhood.

“In the bad cases,” he says, like when stores sell booze indiscriminately, “they can add to problems.”


Finding the place with the most dispatched police calls, however, requires leaving Portland altogether.

That’s because the bureau of emergency communications provided two top-20 lists: one for Portland, and another for the bureau’s entire service area—including Troutdale, unincorporated Multnomah County, Fairview, and, of course, Gresham.

Gresham, with almost 109,000 residents, is a little more than one-sixth the size of Portland. It nonetheless finds itself with seven addresses on that regional list, four of them with police calls high enough to see cops dispatched two or three times a week.

The top spot, the Holly Ridge Apartments on Powell, felt like a surprise. Especially after I visited.

The giant complex, with 163 dispatched police calls, was tidy and quiet. Professional staff in a well-appointed leasing office greeted me warmly, until they heard what I was asking. Then they laughed, took my name for a corporate minder, and kindly said they had standing orders telling press to leave.

That didn’t compute for Lieutenant Claudio Grandjean of the Gresham Police Department. He said he’d expected to find two other complexes—the Rockwood and Rockwood Station Apartments, smaller places known as gang hotspots—ranked higher in his city. (They were third and fourth.)

Gresham has increasingly been home to gang problems pushed out of Portland ["The Good Fight," Feature, Aug 15, 2013]. Gang strife is following a general eastward spread of poverty and other social issues. The border between the two cities is particularly porous.

“These problems are brand new to us,” Grandjean says. “Portland has a lot more experience. They’ve done it longer.”

Grandjean also says Portland has more resources—social services money and nearly 10 times as many cops, enough to create neighborhood units and do “proactive” policing. Gresham has one officer who makes time for that kind of neighborhood work during his regular patrol duties.

That’s helped reduce calls from some apartment complexes, Grandjean says. But it takes time. And working on a place with problems like, say, Cully’s Arbor Mobile Home Park, might take more time than cops in Gresham have.

This could mean we need to think more about how we spend our public safety resources as a region.

“You can drill down to the problem, and say, ‘Let’s take care of it,’” Grandjean says. “That should reduce calls. But we don’t have the personnel to do that.”

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Police pick former head of PSRB to help lead police & mental health reforms

Posted by Jenny on 22nd December 2013

From The Oregonian, Dec. 19, 2013


“It is a curious selection,” said Jason Renaud of the Buckley hire.

The former head of Oregon’s Psychiatric Security Review Board, who resigned while under investigation, is now working for Portland police, responsible for their compliance with federally mandated reforms.

Mary Claire Buckley, 59, resigned from her $99, 636 state board position this past summer amid complaints from her staff to state investigators that she was verbally abusive and threatening, often yelling and berating them, according to public records obtained by The Oregonian.

Read more of “Police pick former head of PSRB to help lead reforms” on

READ – Juliet Follansbee named new executive director of Psychiatric Security Review Board, The Oregonian, November 13, 2013

READ – Who are the “Stakeholders” in Oregon’s Mental Health System? – special op ed for the Mental Health Association of Portland

READ – Mary Claire Buckley, while head of PSRB, was a bully who screamed and swore at staffers, according to interview transcripts, Salem Statesman Journal, July 25, 2013 [this story has been deleted from the Salem Statesman Journal web site, which is EXACTLY why MHAP created and maintains this web site - to assure public access to the history of mental illness in Oregon.]

READ – Mary Claire Buckley investigation interview transcripts (PDF, 6.2MB)

READ – PSRB executive director Mary Claire Buckley resigns, Oregonian June 18, 2013

READ – Buckley’s administrative leave from PSRB due to investigation of board management, Oregonian May 14, 2013

READ – Questions, investigations follow killing of mental health worker in St. Helens, Oregonian May 26, 2012

READ – all stories citing Mary Claire Buckley in the Mental Health Association of Portland archive.

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Man with Mental Illness Tased by Portland Police in Grocery Store

Posted by Jenny on 20th November 2013

By Sara Roth, KGW News, Nov. 18, 2013

Portland police tased a man armed with knives who was reportedly threatening shoppers and stealing at Whole Foods in Northwest Portland Friday. Officers recognized him from prior mental health incidents.

The incident happened at Whole Foods at 1210 NW Couch St. around 8:30 a.m. Friday, according to the Portland Police Bureau. It was captured on an eight-minute citizen video posted on YouTube.

The person who posted the video casts the police in a negative, but bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson encouraged people to watch it as a textbook case of police following proper procedures.

“It shows the distance the officers kept,” he said, “They didn’t force a confrontation. They were very patient, very calm.”

Store employees said the suspect shoplifted merchandise and then grabbed knives off of a rack. When employees asked him to leave, he refused.

A responding sergeant at the scene said he recognized the man and knew he was struggling with mental health issues.

Officers surrounded the man, asked him by name to put down the knives and told him he would be tased if he didn’t.

After several minutes, the sergeant tased the man. The suspect fell to the ground but continued to struggle with officers.

Police said three additional Taser cycles were needed to safely gain control of the man and put him into handcuffs.

The man suffered a bloody nose during the altercation. He was cited for disorderly conduct and menacing and taken to a Portland hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland said “it does seem to be a well-managed takedown of a person carrying a weapon in a public place.” That said, funding needs dramatically increase to help the mentally ill like the man arrested, he said.

Police said the bureau’s behavioral health unit would conduct a follow-up with the man.

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