Recent Projects

The Mental Health Association of Portland addresses difficult subjects other organizations avoid. Below is a record of our recent projects and public advocacy.

Recent Public Writing

Police accountability must start with new union contract, Street Roots, January 2016

Former Mayor Sam Adams wanted Ron Frashour fired. So did the current mayor, Charlie Hales. So did former Chief of Police Michael Reese. So did the city attorney. So did a majority of Portland city commissioners and most of Portland’s citizens.

Frashour, you’ll remember, was the sniper cop who pulled out his earplug, severing communication with his commanding officer, and then killed Aaron Campbell, an unarmed African-American father in the midst of a mental health crisis, by shooting him in the back. That was six years ago.

Advocacy by and for people with mental illness: The DIY Guide, Street Roots, December 2015

People with mental illness are the most discriminated-against class of people, here in Oregon and the world over, today or at any point in history. We are hated as a cultural given and always have been – from being cast adrift on a Ship of Fools to being chained naked in an asylum cell; from the enthusiastic embrace of lobotomy to the dull brutality of death by cop.

Portland Police are still killing the mentally ill, Oregonian, November 14, 2015

Three deaths per year of Portlanders in crisis is a longtime statistical average for Portland police. Reform efforts, federal intervention and pretty words in press conferences have done nothing to reduce our death toll at the hands of those sworn to “protect and serve.” The Portland Police Bureau has not changed. Three deaths is not an improvement. It’s average. It’s average, and it’s unacceptable.

Ignore the gunman behind UCC shootings? Just the opposite, Street Roots, October 16, 2015

Will we ever know entirely why Chris Harper-Mercer decided one day to shoot strangers? No. Not really. Below, we’ll make a guess, but an inner aspect of his terror is the ambiguity he left behind. It’s simple to get lost in the ambiguity, and people will insert their political agenda in the void. But collectively we can be wise, rise above the prurient post-mortem, and seek a better solution.

Cops’ use of force: Why so few charges?, Street Roots, June 9, 2015

So we went old-school. One of our volunteers went down the list of DAs in Oregon and contacted each and every one of them, asking the same question: “Have you charged police officers with use-of-force crimes?

Death by cop: Who’s at risk?, Street Roots, May 15, 2015

Our list, now over 300 names long, has developed to the point where we can parse the data and tease out some reasonable sense of who, exactly, is at risk. One minority group rises to the top, year in and year out for over 40 years, consistently targeted — sometimes justly, sometimes not.

Which group?

Here’s a hint: If you have a mental illness or active addiction, keep your head down.

Van Halen’s lesson for police reform, Street Roots, April 2015

To balance a bad decision, the city recruited and selected the members of the COAB without engaging the community directly affected by the issue on the table — avoidable use of police force against people with mental illness. None of the selected members are attorneys or experienced at all in reviewing police accountability metrics; their abilities are impeached by lack of experience.

Portland police training audit fails basic task on truth, Street Roots, March 2015

The basic task of police oversight is monitoring use of force in avoidable situations. We don’t deny the need for police, or the franchise of use of force. We don’t protest use of force in unavoidable situations, whether the person has a mental illness or not. But “unavoidable” use of force is not what the DOJ went looking for; it’s not what auditors focused on; and it’s not what concerns us. We do take issue with avoidable force, which disproportionately and outrageously victimizes persons with mental illness.

Our newest, not-so-new police directive: Just walk away, Street Roots, January 2015

Most crises do not require police intervention. Most need no medical attention, no counseling, no medication, no confinement. Let’s not be dramatic; crisis is routine. If anything, most crises require a smile, a cup of hot chocolate. Crisis requires compassion.

Portland Can’t Afford a Bad Hire for Compliance Officer/Community Liaison, The Skanner, September 2014

For over a decade advocates for people with mental illness have steadily watched one police reform effort after another launch grandly and flop summarily. The settlement in DOJ v. City of Portland has been, from our point of view, just one more flop.

Someone Has to Do It – No One’s Been Reliably Tracking Police Shootings. Here’s a Start, Portland Mercury, September 10, 2014

From local activists we need a unified voice insisting on police accountability for their communities—especially the suburban and rural areas where many of these deaths happen. This voice should come from a joining together of organizations representing persons of color and those representing persons with mental illness. In this way alone will we bring appropriate thoughtfulness, via recruitment and evidence-based training, to police agencies everywhere.

Portland police, DOJ settlement fails on multiple fronts, Street Roots, August 2014

The settlement agreement is a frail and insufficient solution, too quickly agreed upon by self-serving parties seeking political credibility. Little of the agreement benefits us – remember us? the persons actually harmed? – although it’s we who are, or may be, in mental health crisis, we who are at imminent risk of injury and death by cop.

Gun owners with mental illness need a storage plan, The Skanner, June 2014

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

MHAP’s response to Portland’s settlement with the DOJ, an open letter to the DOJ and Portland City Council, October 28, 2012

Foremost, the city continues to employ officers who have mercilessly and thoughtlessly killed our friends without consequence. The settlement introduces no mechanism to separate those individuals from the police bureau, in order to prevent future threat to us or hold them duly accountable. No amount of policy, training, or wringing of hands can amend these crimes, and nothing has been done to protect us from the officers involved.

We call on the Portland Police Bureau to cease fire now, guest column in The Oregonian by Jenny Westberg on behalf of the Board of the Mental Health Association of Portland, September 18, 2012

There is a way to end police brutality in Portland: Zero tolerance for killing a civilian. Kill a civilian and turn in your badge — regardless of the scenario, regardless of threat or perceived threat, regardless of your fears or prejudices against fellow Portlanders who happen to have a mental illness.

Reversal of police suspension in James Chasse arbitration sends wrong message, guest column in The Oregonian by Jenny Westberg on behalf of the Board of the Mental Health Association of Portland, July 18, 2012

But they lost a battle they don’t understand in the area between right and wrong. They kept their jobs, but they lost their honor, lost hearts and minds, lost respect and trust.

Get mayoral candidates on record about police accountability, by Jenny Westberg on behalf of the Board of the Mental Health Association of Portland, April 5, 2012

“Suicide By Cop” Means Manslaughter, guest column in Blue Oregon by James Mazzocco, March 10, 2012

Portland police and another tragic death, guest column in The Oregonian, by Jenny Westberg on behalf of the Board of the Mental Health Association of Portland, February 8, 2012

Occupy Portland: End game leaves us in the same place, by Jenny Westberg on behalf of the Board of the Mental Health Association of Portland, November 10, 2011

Junction City hospital the worst way to treat mentally ill, a guest column in the Eugene Register-Guard, by the Board of the Mental Health Association of Portland, October 31, 2011

An Unnecessary Hospital: an open letter to Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, October 6, 2011 – download PDF

Suicide by cop: A rights perspective, from the Oregon Trial Lawyer magazine, by Jason Renaud and Jenny Westberg, Summer 2011

Keeping our cops clean and sober, a guest column in The Oregonian, by Jason Renaud and Jenny Westberg on behalf of the Board of the Mental Health Association of Portland, February 16th, 2011

Walking the talk of Gabby Giffords, guest column in The Oregonian, by Jenny Westberg, Feb. 5, 2011

Transgender clients face unique challenges in mental health system, by Jenny Westberg, published in Street Roots, Oct. 29, 2010

Millions in taxes buy nightmares for mentally ill, guest column in the Portland Tribune, by Jenny Westberg and Jason Renaud on behalf of the Board of the Mental Health Association of Portland, August 5, 2010

Testimony to Portland City Council, July 28, 2010 on the OIR Report on the Death of James Chasse

Navigating the inequities of mental health system, Guest Column in Street Roots, July 15, 2010, by Jenny Westberg on behalf of the Board of the Mental Health Association of Portland.

You’ve stepped up to the plate, mayor; lets hit a home run, an open letter to Portland Mayor Sam Adams, Guest Column in Street Roots, June 22, 2010, by Jenny Westberg on behalf of the Board of the Mental Health Association of Portland.

Finding lost friends: A guide for connecting off the grid, Guest Column in Street Roots, May 21, 2010, by Jenny Westberg on behalf of the Board of the Mental Health Association of Portland.

The death of James P. Chasse, Jr: Why the story won’t go away, Guest Column in The Oregonian, by Jenny Westberg on behalf of the Board of the Mental Health Association of Portland, May 13, 2010

We Understand Your Anger About Police Violence, The Skanner, March 2010

The police protest: Their tactics are misguided, but not their anger, guest column in The Oregonian, March 30, 2010

Jason Renaud: Why I’m Running, BlueOregon.com, January 2010

The death of James Chasse: For our city’s sake, a time for openness, guest column in The Oregonian, October 23, 2009

Agencies to call for resignation of Portland officers involved in Chasse’s arrest, The Oregonian, October 7, 2009

Mental health association volunteer issues plea to Portland council, The Oregonian, September 30, 2009

The Chasse investigation: Results sit on police chief’s desk, but why?, guest column in The Oregonian, September 12, 2009

Extended interview with Jason Renaud, Portland Observer, December 30, 2009

Matters of life or death: Extended interview with Jason Renaud, Street Roots, February 2010

Community groups will call for the resignations of Officers Kyle Nice, Christopher Humphreys and Bret Burton, MHAP column in Street Roots, October 7, 2009

Advice for Multnomah County’s new sub-acute facility, MHAP column in Street Roots, August 20, 2009

Technical and Financial Aid

The Carl Whitaker Project receives technical assistance from the organization.

We’re always interested in news about the Psychiatric Security Review Board. We archive documents and information about the PSRB here, and will monitor a statewide conversation about PSRB in Summer of 2014. This project is ongoing.

Eyes & Ears is a mental health consumer run newsletter for consumers, their friends & family and mental health professionals. With the help of MHAP, Eyes & Ears was Oregon’s most widely distributed patient advocacy newsletter. 2008 – 2013. This project is completed.

Alien Boy: the Death and Life of James Chasse, a feature-length film documenting the brutal killing of James Chasse by the Portland Police. 2006 – 2013. This project is ongoing.

Portland Hearing Voices is a community group to promote mental diversity. We create public education, discussion groups, training, and community support related to hearing voices, seeing visions, and having unusual beliefs and sensory experiences often labeled as psychosis, bipolar, mania, paranoia, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders. We aim to reduce fear and misunderstanding, question stereotypes, promote holistic health options, overcome isolation, and create a more inclusive community. 2008 – 2012. This project is completed.

Homeless Liberation Front
– a complete and permanent archive of all news stories and public records about the Homeless Liberation Front, a protest by homeless people at Portland City Hall, April 25 – May 20, 2008. This project is completed.

From the Inside Out was created to break through silence and misunderstanding surrounding mental health. The performances will explore concepts such as fear, discrimination, and frustrations that are dealt with by people with mental health concerns, especially in regards to dealing with the criminal justice system. From the Inside Out uses a structure called Interactive Theater, which utilizes plays to depict problems relevant to a specific community. The plays are performed for an audience first without interruption. When repeated, audience members are invited to take part in the performance in order to act out potential solutions to problems presented. Facilitated discussion follows. Target audiences include people with mental health issues, family, friends, people working in law enforcement, supporting professionals and the general public. The show was built through participatory workshops and is written and performed by people dealing with mental health issues. 2003 – 2008. This project is completed.

Public Advocacy

What Happened to Jackie Collins – a complete and permanent archive of all news stories and public records about what happened to Jackie Collins. This project is completed.

What Happened to Aaron Campbell – a complete and permanent archive of all news stories and public records about what happened to Aaron Campbell. This project is completed.

What Happened to James Chasse – a complete and permanent archive of all news stories and public records about what happened to James Chasse. This project is ongoing. More about what happened to James Chasse is archived at this web site here. This project is ongoing.

What Happened to Lukus Glenn – a complete and permanent archive of all news stories and public records about what happened to Lukus Glenn. This project is completed.

What Happened to Fouad Kaady – a complete and permanent archive of all news stories and public records about what happened to Fouad Kaady. This project is completed.

What Happened to Joyce Staudenmaier – a complete and permanent archive of all news stories and public records about what happened to Joyce Staudenmaier. This project is completed.

What Happened to Glenn Shipman – a complete and permanent archive of all news stories and public records about what happened to Glenn Shipman. This project is completed.

Oregon State Hospital Patient Remains – information about the 3000+ patient remains at the Oregon State Hospital. Our advocacy in 2003 – 2004 asked the state to create a suitable memorial for these remains. Instead the state legislature decided to build a new hospital with a museum honoring the hospital’s terrible history. This project is completed.