By Derrick DePledge
Police and sheriff’s deputies in Clatsop County who have to make life-and-death decisions about people in mental health crisis will get some backup.
Mental health experts will be on call around the clock to advise law enforcement about whether someone who is acting out can be contained or needs to go to the hospital. The guidance could defuse often frantic, emotional confrontations in the community and avert unnecessary hospitalization or arrest.
“We really want to do as much as we possibly can to keep people out of the emergency room,” said Amy Baker, the executive director of Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare, the county’s mental health contractor.
Oregon promised to expand mobile crisis services statewide by July as part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve a federal civil-rights investigation into the state’s treatment of the mentally ill.
The state has committed to a community-based mental health approach that emphasizes treatment over institutionalization and criminal justice. Some counties have paired mental health experts with police for the past few years and have seen promising results.
Yet many rural areas, like Clatsop County, have lacked the resources to adequately respond to people in mental health crisis or offer treatment locally.