Statement from DHS head Joanne Fuller on Chasse settlement

Statement from Multnomah County Director of Human Services Joanne Fuller on the Chasse settlement

Joanne Fuller

Joanne Fuller

Today Ted Wheeler, Chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners released the attached statement regarding the settlement of the lawsuit that arose from the death of James Chasse and important improvements in the mental health system. I wanted to share this statement with you and thank you for your continued work with DCHS on improving the mental health system.

James Chasse’s death was such a tragedy. It serves as a reminder that we need to create the best supports and treatment possible for people recovering from serious mental illness. His death also served as the catalyst for increased interest in and investment in the mental health system in our community. That work continues today.

The discussions that followed James Chasse’s death identified many mental health system gaps. We are continuing to address those gaps.

The Local Public Safety Coordinating Council created a mental health and public safety sub-committee which has been meeting monthly to increase communication and problem solving among mental health advocates, public safety officials and mental health service providers. This group created the Multnomah County Mental Health Treatment Court where individuals who are identified as mentally ill and in need of treatment are encouraged to seek treatment in conjunction with fulfilling their court requirements.

The county and the State of Oregon provided funding for Oregon Health Sciences University to open The Avel Gordley Center for Healing, a unique place for culturally specific mental health services for the African American community. In addition to the Gordley Center, the county funds culturally specific mental health services for the Asian, Latino, Native American, and Slavic communities. We will continue to work with advocates from these communities and mental health providers to increase the effectiveness of mental health services for people from all cultures.

The biggest gap in our mental health system has been the need for an alternative to hospitalization and jail for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. Too often people struggling with a serious mental health crisis are taken to jail or to a hospital emergency room when they could be better served in a less restrictive, supportive and welcoming setting. Next week, the Board of County Commissioners will take a step toward the creation of a new sixteen bed mental health crisis treatment and assessment center. They will consider a resolution to remodel the Hooper detoxification center to use the site for these mental health crisis services.

Everyday in our community people struggle to recover from serious mental illness. All of us must continue to work together to make sure that they get the support, treatment and opportunity for a healthy and thriving life.