Are jails replacing asylums in Jackson County?

By RaeAnn Christensen, NBC5 News, Nov. 12, 2013

In Oregon, a review by the Wall Street Journal found that more than half of the state’s inmates suffer from some type of mental health issue.

“A lot of people end up in jail because they have a mental illness not necessarily because they are a danger,” says Lt. Dan Penland of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

It’s becoming so common that Jackson County has started training their officers how to respond to a mentally ill inmate.

Lt. Penland says “it’s learning how to deal with mental illness in different situations, on patrol, in the jail because a lot of officers haven’t been exposed to that.”

A new community program called Compass House here in Jackson County is hoping to help.

“With state hospitals really not being that operational, jail and prison really only becomes the only other avenue we have for somebody. We recognize that it’s a revolving door and we want to try to stop that statistic from happening,” says Matthew Vorderstrasse, Program Specialist of the Compass House.

The clubhouse is a nonprofit organization that helps thoseĀ  suffering with mental illness.

Vorderstrasse says “they are engaged in a positive environment, they have a place that is safe for them to go to. They begin to develop a program of living that is healthy to them.”

A healthier life that will hopefully help keep them from behind bars.

The Compass House program, established through Jackson County Mental Health is already starting to accept members.

But they are looking for a permanent facility andĀ  expect to be fully up and running in early 2014.