After authorizing $10.6 million to help people with behavioral health issues get treatment and avoid costly stays in emergency rooms and local jails, Oregon officials are putting that money to work.
Since Governor Kate Brown signed legislation in July 2019 creating a new grant program, six counties and five tribal governments have received awards totaling $9.7 million to help develop stronger community-based continuums of care in the state, which has one of the highest rates of people with behavioral health needs in the U.S.
The Improving People’s Access to Community-Based Treatment, Supports, and Services (IMPACTS) grant program is expected to help save millions in local and state expenditures resulting from jail admissions and an overwhelming number of court orders for competency restoration at the Oregon State Hospital. Officials say the COVID-19 pandemic makes the state’s investment even more vital than when the legislature created the grant program.
“With little opportunity for social distancing in jails, the COVID-19 outbreak has reinforced the importance of community-based assistance for people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders,” said Steve Allen, Behavioral Health Director for the Oregon Health Authority and co-chair of the IMPACTS Grant Review Committee. “Investing in innovative local programs will help us learn more about what works in improving health outcomes and decreasing costly justice system involvement for people with complex behavioral health needs.”
IMPACTS is the result of Oregon’s participation in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. State and county leaders partnered with The Council of State Governments Justice Center to use the data-driven approach to evaluate issues related to behavioral health and the criminal justice system. Oregon is the first state to focus its Justice Reinvestment efforts entirely on the intersection of the criminal justice and behavioral health systems.
Oregon’s Justice Reinvestment project was guided by the state’s 32-member Behavioral Health Justice Reinvestment Steering Committee, which recommended the creation of the IMPACTS grant program.
The funding will help address a shortage of supports and services in local communities, from supportive housing to crisis stabilization units to medication and care coordination. Jurisdictions are incorporating existing community resources with these new, grant-funded supports to provide comprehensive, sustainable programs that engage people with complex behavioral health needs across different points in the criminal justice system. While the majority of programs focus on increasing supports prior to booking, some will also support people upon reentry or during community supervision. The state reserved 20 percent of the overall funding for tribal governments.
“Helping our tribal communities safely divert people with behavioral health needs from continual emergency room visits and arrests has never been more important for Oregon’s tribes,” said Dr. Sharon Stanphill, who serves as the chief health officer for the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians and is a member of the IMPACTS Grants Review Committee. “This funding will make a huge difference as our tribal leaders and staff know culturally specific prevention and treatment services are critical for our members.”
The jurisdictions receiving funding, which include urban, rural, and frontier counties, will also provide data on key outcome metrics for people being served with grant funds to inform statewide and local policy decisions regarding continued investment.
This project was supported by Grant No. 2019-ZB-BX-K002 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Photo credit: Meggyn Pomerleau via Unsplash
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