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
History of Portland’s Homeless Alcohol and Drug Intervention Network – Street Roots, July 2022
A carceral response to public inebriates — once narrowly focused on low-income people downtown — caused people to search for a better way, fueling the creation of HADIN
In the mid-1980s, the most dire problem on the streets of Portland (from the point of view of the downtown business community, which funded campaigns to elect persons to city hall and the county) was public inebriates. They were considered unsightly, slightly dangerous and a detriment to tourism and retail development. These were mostly white working-class male late-stage alcoholics who lived in cheap hotels, worked day labor on local farms, drank fortified wines like Night Train, Thunderbird or MD 40/40, and then might pass out, sometimes on the street. There was some heroin on Portland’s Skid Row at the time but not much by comparison to today; some trade in pills, but no cocaine, no methamphetamine. Alcohol was cheap, legal and easy to access.
In the 1940s, the state, county and city launched several punitive efforts to address public inebriates. All efforts failed, largely because none of them addressed alcoholism which was the source of the problem. As the medical world began to map alcoholism as a curable, treatable disease with a primary goal of abstinence, policies became more coherent. This coherence took a long time because of social ignorance, fad and psychogenic treatments, and the persuasion of the legislature by the alcohol industry to deregulate and normalize alcohol use.
Until the mid-1970s, it was illegal to be drunk on the streets of Portland. Inebriates were not taken to county jail but instead to a set of gang cells at the city police station located at Southwest Third Avenue and Oak Street. There was a large cell that could hold 30 or 40 men at one time, which it often did during the Rose Festival. There was a separate, smaller adjoining cell for women. Most of the collected inebriates would be convicted in the morning of public drunkenness, fined and released.
Response to PPB’s Medical Aid Directive – Collaborative writing from members of the Mental Health Alliance – April 2022
Investing in recovery can stem our homeless deaths – December 2021
“By the time I came along, the miracle of sobriety and recovery for men and women with 10 and 20 years of alcoholism and addiction who were also homeless was almost routine. Sober and recovered, men and women could regain their dignity, become self-sufficient and reunite with their families. But now the problem has grown – and so the solution has to grow also.”
City’s unkept promises to people in crisis – August 2021
“Everyone knows the police are not the right responders for this job, but there’s no real alternative. Although most crisis interventions by police go smoothly, there’s a critical flaw built into this approach. When assisting someone in crisis, the most important tool is trust. Not the law, weapons, training or even compassion. It’s the implicit assumption held by those in crisis that they will not be killed. And when the public watches repeated harm by police to people with mental illness – as Portlanders have – their trust and regard for police are damaged.”
20 years after Mejía Poot killing, we still lack enough alternatives to police – With PCCEP Co-Chair Elliott Young, PhD, March 2021
Measure 26-217 will help create real police oversight – Street Roots, October 2020
Members of the Mental Health Alliance will vote YES on Portland City Ballot Measure 26-217 to form a new and empowered police review board and bring accountability and credibility to the Portland Police Bureau.
Members and supporters of the Mental Health Association of Portland appreciate your concern for the students of Oregon and ask that you make a public comment about the resources available to get students assessed for mental illness.
SNAP is a blessing for vulnerable Oregonians — if they can use it – Street Roots, September 2020
As COVID-19 keeps some folks at home, grocery delivery and pickup should be available to people who receive food benefits
Supervised drug injection bad use of funds – Portland Tribune, May 2018
The solution for addiction is barrier-free, on-demand, long-term treatment that addresses the mind, body and spirit. Full stop. We know addiction treatment works, we’ve known it for decades.
Yes, Trump might have a mental illness – but that’s irrelevant, Street Roots, October 2017
For quite a while, pundits, journalists, political scientists and many others have exclaimed President Donald Trump is mentally ill. They usually include some equivocation such as “I’m not a mental health professional, but” and somehow don’t bother to ask a mental health professional’s opinion.
However, Trump’s bad judgment doesn’t matter whether he has a mental illness or not.
With a new mayor, Portland should kickstart police reforms to help those with mental illness, Oregonian, January 2017
As Portland shifts leadership from Charlie Hales to Ted Wheeler, it’s important to remember one Hales administration failure that continues to threaten the most vulnerable among us.
After more than four years of attempted compliance with legally-prescribed reforms, and despite new hires, media hand-wringing and millions spent on consultants and public process, the city’s police have yet to reduce their use of force against people with mental illness.
Force data summary reports now available on the Portland Police Bureau website show that, from spring 2015 through last fall, the number of use-of-force incidents involving persons with mental illness has remained flat, if not slightly increasing.
County’s failures continue with Wapato, Portland Tribune, October 2016
For decades Multnomah County evaded addressing chronic homelessness, mental illness and addiction. Evasion left good programs unfunded or crippled, discouraging participation, and undermining efforts of the state, city and outside advocates to support and fund other solutions.
The result is the public health disaster we see on our streets today.
Why we document you: Recording the city’s oversight failure, Street Roots, June 2016
Our online archive documents our genocide, generation after generation, at the hands of the state and citizens of Oregon.
We document the warehousing, isolation, beating, poisoning, torture, drowning, exile, medical experimentation and unmarked mass graves. We document the hatred, the contemptuous laughter, the poverty, sickness and death. Our bullet-ridden bodies tell a terrible story that few acknowledge and fewer mourn. We document an ongoing horror, through the years and as it happens.
Much of this happened out of society’s view, and society was just fine with that. Moreover, the decisions and policies that shaped our lives happened without us. Today we have a new tool to bring authority out of the darkness and into brilliant sunshine.
Opinion: Stop using the term ‘substance abuse’, Street Roots, May 2016
“What’s in a name?” Juliet muses from the balcony. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Shakespeare was right – mostly. In general, things are not fundamentally altered by changing what we call them. But hate speech has its own rules.
What we’re talking about is the widespread use of the term “substance abuse.”
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.
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
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
Chasse case languishes alongside squandered progress, MHAP column in Street Roots, September, 2008
A personal response to the death of James Chasse Jr., MHAP column in Street Roots, November 2006
Technical and Financial Aid
The Carl Whitaker Project receives technical assistance from the organization.
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.
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.