By Virginia Barreda
State leaders announced a project Wednesday to change how Oregon responds to people in the criminal justice system who have mental illnesses and substance addictions.
Following the announcement, Oregon’s Behavioral Health Justice Reinvestment Steering Committee launched the federally funded Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
The goal of the committee is to develop statewide policy using collective data to help reduce recidivism and improve health outcomes for people with mental issues who repeatedly cycle through public safety and health systems.
The committee is made up of 28 people from law enforcement and Oregon’s justice and healthcare systems, as well as state and county officials and people with lived experience.
People with serious mental illnesses are being referred to jails and other institutions that are not equipped to provide them with the treatment they need, according to Patrick Allen, director of Oregon Health Authority. A broader strategy is needed.
“The general notion is to use the data in the experience of people in the steering group, and those on council to identify the strategies that are most effective,” Allen said.
The process is expected to lead to a series of policy recommendations for the 2019 Legislature to consider, according to Steve Allen, senior policy adviser with the Council of State Governments Justice Center.