Office of the Senate President
900 Court St., N.E., Room S-201
Salem OR 97301
February 6, 2013
Courtney Calls For ‘Game Changing’
Investment In Community Mental Health
(SALEM) –Senate President Peter Courtney today called on members of the Oregon Legislature to make a “game changing” increase in funding for community mental health services in Oregon a top revenue and budget priority.
“It’s been almost a decade since the discovery of the Room of Lost Souls prompted the Legislature to act to replace the Oregon State Hospital,” Courtney said “It’s a shame, but perhaps recent tragedies in Oregon and other states will finally force us to confront this widespread problem in our state. If we are willing to tackle this issue, we can dramatically improve the quality of life for thousands of Oregonians.”
Statistics indicate that one in eight children, and one in 18 adults in Oregon suffers from mental illness. The Oregon Health Authority also reports that the state is currently serving less than half the adults and slightly more than one-third of the young people who need treatment.
Courtney said officials in OHA’s Division of Addictions and Mental Health indicate that an additional $331 million is needed to fully fund community mental health services.
Nearly $285 million is needed for crisis services, case management, outpatient programs and housing for mentally ill adults. Another $46 million is needed for programs for children and young adults.
“We need services that can intervene and make a difference in someone’s life before they wind up in the Oregon State Hospital or one of our prisons,” Courtney said. “More than half of the adults with mental illness are slipping through the cracks.”
The earlier mental illness is identified and treated the better the outcome, the Senate President said, adding that increasing funding for services for Oregonians ages 0 to 25 is critical.
“Nearly two-thirds of young Oregonians who need mental health services aren’t getting them,” said Courtney (D-Salem/Gervais/Woodburn) “We have to do better. Before we can fill their minds with knowledge, we need to make sure their minds are healthy.”
The additional $46 million would include full funding and expansion of the Early Assessment and Support Alliance, which identifies young people in the early stages of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders and ensures they and their families have the proper resources to effectively deal with the illness. Also included would be an expansion of “wraparound” services and other evidence-based treatment.
The Senate President said he is working to identify potential dedicated funding sources to provide the additional funding needed for community mental health treatment.
“If we’re going to get serious about treating mental illness in our state, we have to get serious about funding mental health services in our state,” Courtney said. “It’s too important to put off any longer.”
Courtney said addressing the problem head on can help eliminate the social stigma related to mental illness.
“This is more than a budget issue. Treatment can change people lives,” Courtney said. “Treatment reduces drug and alcohol abuse. Treatment can improve relationships and save families. It can make people better employees. It can make them better parents. It can make them better citizens.”