In your future office, what powers will you use to affect positive change in mental health services? What changes will you pursue?
In my position as Mayor of Portland, I would build upon the good work that Multnomah County has started. It has been long recognized that the number of individuals with mental health issues is on the rise. Part of this is the recent recognition of issues that were long ignored and part is a result of economic factors and an aging population. The United States has developed the EQUITY Framework, and the State has initiated the program for Aging and Disability Resource Centers, both of which I support. The City of Portland has participated on the fringe of these issues, but I would use my powers to make the City a full partner. These programs do not come without cost. There are grants regularly pursued to aid these programs. As the Mayor, my job would be to find partnerships, so as to channel more of these grant funds to the programs and less to facilities and infrastructure. Partnerships with existing community centers, local businesses and making available spaces left vacant by the current economic downturn, can allow for the development of clinics and warming centers. These must be made available through easy transit. Tri-Met becomes a partner in this endeavor also. Each of these facilities comes with a need for security as well. As Mayor, I can provide task patrols of those areas with City Police, so as to provide that level of protection, but equally important is to increase the Police awareness of mental health issues. By firsthand exposure, combined with training, the Police can then more easily identify the signs of mental illness and be better prepared to deal with this in the field. The change I would pursue is as stated above – a devotion to partnership within the means and resources of the City.
Homelessness has increased statewide despite millions of dollars spent on providing housing. Why? What would you do to end homelessness?
In running for the position of Portland Mayor, it is incumbent upon me to recognize all groups, all stakeholders in our community. The City is not a business. A business is myopic in its view in targeting a special interest audience. The City is a multi-faceted project, requiring the input of all its stakeholders with varied interests and knowledge bases. Homelessness does not have a single fix. As students learn differently, the homelss adapt differently to their surroundings, because they have different backgrounds. The homeless population needs more than homes. Many are depressed, anti-social, chronically ill, or fully capable but lack the skill sets to hold a job or maintain a residence. Housing exists. As Mayor, I would stop spending money on building housing and spend those same funds on getting ahead of the problem, by helping the homeless overcome the obstacles that keep them from succeeding. This assistance comes in the form of stimulating business so there are jobs to go to, working with private job skills and placement companies to match up homeless individuals with paying work, so they can move from the streets to shelters to housing, AND collaborating with health professionals to put in place pathways to overcome addictions and chronic issues and develop positive life skills. I would support these endeavors and work to get ahead of the problem. Building an apartment complex does not end homelessness – it simply masks the real issues.
On January 27 the Mental Health Association of Portland sent questions to all Oregon political candidates. This is one response. This post is not a political endorsement but an opportunity to speak out about mental illness. Minor changes may have been made to the text for clarity.