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Input sought for expanded Jackson County crisis response

A group planning ways to expand local mental health crisis programs in Jackson County wants to hear from locals who have experience in the current system.

A committee with the nonprofit National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southern Oregon is gathering feedback on what works in the current crisis system, including crisis hotlines, health agencies, law enforcement and hospital emergency rooms, as they work to tailor early plans for a walk-in psychiatric clinic and a non-police mobile crisis program.

The non-police mobile crisis clinic would take its blueprint from the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets or CAHOOTS program in the city of Eugene, according to Meesha Blair, Community Engagement Committee co-chair.

The program deploys crisis workers with the White Bird Clinic in Eugene, who are trained in mental health and substance use disorders when a person has a mental health crisis.

“It’s a non-police mobile response, so they’ll come to where the situation is,” Blair said.

The committee is working with Tim Black, White Bird Clinic’s director of consulting, but said they want the Jackson County crisis clinic to be “tailored to our needs.”

The original CAHOOTS program is largely geared toward the mental health needs of the unhoused in Eugene, but the Southern Oregon committee wants to find ways to serve residents in rural areas having mental health needs and emergencies.

“We also want to meet people that are also housed,” Blair said.

In Eugene, CAHOOTS is called out after someone dials 911, but Southern Oregon intends to use a separate phone number for mental health emergencies — likely 988.

Oregon Health Authority’s behavioral health crisis line 988 will be available for people with mental health emergencies across the state starting July 16, 2022.

NAMI Southern Oregon’s Community Engagement Committee is particularly interested in hearing from people with “lived experience” in the current crisis system, according to Blair, especially for OHA grants that involve the 988 program.

The committee is also in the early stages of planning a “crisis stabilization center.” Blair said the committee is gathering ideas for the proposed walk-in psychiatric clinic, but key ideas on the table include a place where a person with mental health issues could check themselves in without needing a referral, and could be a place besides the jail where police officers could bring a person with a mental health disorder.

The findings will help their Crisis Response Network planning committee illustrate needs in grant applications and will help tailor its scope.

Blair said the listening sessions and workgroups will utilize trained facilitators with NAMI and Resolve “trained in how to listen,” and is a chance to adapt to different communities’ needs.

Listening sessions in English are scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20, and 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24, via Zoom. A Spanish language listening session is scheduled for noon Saturday, Jan. 22.

They intend to keep input as confidential and anonymous as possible in grant applications, but advocates are also willing to conduct one-on-one interviews by Zoom for people who email Love.the.recorder1@gmail.com.

The committee will offer $25 stipends to participants who complete a two-hour group session or one-on-one interviews.

Sign up for the Jan. 20 Zoom public comments hearing at bit.ly/3lQbMxK, the Jan. 24 hearing at bit.ly/3DAnqTz and the Spanish language Jan. 22 hearing at bit.ly/3oDPxwG.

Down the line, organizers intend to conduct paper surveys to hear from people with experience in the mental health system who don’t have computers, in places such as the Bear Creek Greenway, and treatment courts in Jackson County such as Wellness Court (formerly known as Mental Health Court) and ROC Court, according to Blair.

For questions or more information on ways to participate in the listening sessions, call 541-621-0663.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.