City of Portland’s mental health legislative agenda for 2013

Eds. Note: This is standard get-nothing-done-about-mental-illness agenda from the CoP. Though persons in mental health crisis fill city-funded housing and city-funded shelters, and demand additional services from city employees from all departments, the funding ideas listed below are vague and seek to backfill police at the end of a crisis instead of more prudently where they’re needed, before it begins.

Public Safety Budgeting for the Mental Health Care Crisis

From the City of Portland Legislative Agenda – 2013 Session

Objective:

Support efforts to improve mental health care funding to alleviate pressure on city and county public safety services. Encourage the availability of more mental health care providers. Allow counties that limit use of state prison resources to receive increased funding for prevention, mental health services, and law enforcement programs.

Issue:

Without changes to current policy, Oregon can expect the need for 2,300 additional prison beds at a cost of $600 million over the next 10 years. Simultaneously, a fragmented and underfunded mental health care system has resulted in local fire departments and law enforcement becoming the de facto social service providers to citizens experiencing mental health crisis, or are suffering from illness without sufficient treatment. The lack of adequate mental health care services and an insufficient number of providers means that our most expensive and least-equipped public services—police and fire—often shoulder the burden.

An underfunded state system for providing mental health services directly impacts the City of Portland through increased demand for emergency and police services. Not only does sheer call volume increase when services are not appropriately funded, but this impacts quality of life issues for people needing specific help for mental health with preventable issues including general health issues, trauma, substance abuse, and crime, all of which transfers increased costs to our economy. Even when people are able to seek mental health care services, they are often unable to receive treatment in a timely manner because
of a shortage of mental health care providers in the state.

The City supports efforts to improve mental health care funding to alleviate pressure on city and county public safety services and encourage the availability of more mental health care providers. For example, the City supports funding for Lines for Life and other non-public safety programs that encourage the availability of more mental health care providers in Oregon.

In addition, working with our county partners, the City supports public safety reforms that improve local funding and reward improvements in local public safety and mental health services. For example, the City supports “Performance Incentive Funding,” an approach to encourage smart, prevention-based investments by providing that counties that limit use of state prison resources receive increased funding for prevention, mental health services, and law enforcement programs. This approach was one of several recommended policies to protect public safety, control prison costs, and hold offenders accountable in a report released by the Commission on Public Safety in winter 2012.