Mayor pledges more help for mentally ill

From May 16, 2010

Parents of a troubled Portland man shot by police met with Mayor Sam Adams and his new police chief, Mike Reese.

Adams says the the group agreed that more should be done to help the city’s mentally ill.

Even before this recent shooting, Mayor Adams had placed a “mental health triage center” in his final budget.

He says the triage center would serve as an information and referral hub for police and those families trying to find help for someone suffering from mental illness. Adams says the center would also help ill citizens in crisis avoid conflict with police.

Keaton Otis is the man officers recently shot and killed during an apparent gun fight.

“His parents described working really hard to try to get him the help that they knew he needed,” said Adams.

Regarding their 25-year-old son, Felesia and Joseph Otis said in a statement Friday, “Keaton was a typical teenager before being diagnosed in 2004 with a mood disorder. As his parents, we want you know about our son and the struggles he had later in his life so that others will not travel his path.”

“The big stumbling block that this poor family described to me was that they could never -that he was an adult- and they couldn’t commit him,” said Adams.

Committing an adult like Keaton Otis against his will is extremely difficult in Oregon and other states says the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“If you have private insurance you can get care. If you don’t have private insurance then you have to be disabled to get care. So there’s no place in between; there’s no drop-in or crisis facility treatment,” said the organization’s Don Moore, a father of a schizophrenic.

For Keaton Otis -and others who may have fallen through the cracks- Adams says it’s important police not become their first and only contact in times of crisis.

He wants his proposed mental health triage center to serve families in crisis at least until federal universal health care kicks in within three to four years.

“What are we going to do? We can’t have three to four years of this sort of human devastation in our streets. It’s not tolerable,” said Adams.