Spinning Wheeler – County Chair to Talk Mental Health

Portland Mercury, November 21, 2007 – County Chair Ted Wheeler has accepted an invitation by mental health activists to attend a public meeting to discuss his apparent failure, so far, to prioritize a sub-acute facility for the mentally ill in Portland.

Wheeler told the Mercury at the end of last month he might not secure funding for such a facility—where police officers could take people in mental health crisis instead of jail—until 2010. November 2008 is the very earliest he could secure funding, Wheeler said.

Nevertheless, on October 4, Wheeler voted against a proposal by County Commissioner Lisa Naito to fund such a center by diverting $4 million of county subsidies from Gresham ["Less Than a Crisis?" News, Nov 1].

Reopening a sub-acute facility—Portland has been missing its crisis triage center since 2003—was a key priority of Mayor Tom Potter’s Mental Health/Public Safety Initiative formed last fall, following the death in police custody last September of the 42-year-old schizophrenic, James Chasse Jr.

Portland Mental Health Association President Roy Silberstein wrote to Wheeler last Friday, November 16, inviting him to hold a public meeting to explain his “plans to make the opening of a sub-acute facility a high priority.”

“Since the closure of the Crisis Triage Center in 2003,” Silberstein wrote, “people with mental illness, their friends and family members, mental health clinicians, first responders, and a variety of others have experienced or witnessed a high number of bad outcomes which could have been avoided had a psychiatric sub-acute facility been an option.”

Wheeler’s office agreed to the meeting this Tuesday, November 20—to take place on January 18, 2008, at 6 pm.

“I think it’s very encouraging that they want to meet their constituents to talk about their decisions,” says Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association. Wheeler himself did not return the Mercury‘s call by press time, but a spokesman confirmed the meeting will take place.

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