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Washington County announced that staffing shortages are impacting services at the mental health crisis resource.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Hawthorn Walk-in Center in Hillsboro is a county-funded program that seeks to provide immediate care for those in crisis. It announced that it would stop accepting walk-in appointments starting this week, due to staffing shortages. The Hawthorn Walk-in Center will no longer accept walk-ins starting Wednesday, June 15, according to a press release from Washington County Health and Human Services.

The center for mental health and addictions care will stop taking walk-in appointments due to a staffing shortage, the press release states. The suspension of walk-in service is indefinite, with walk-ins not accepted until further notice.

Hawthorn staff urge those in crisis to call the Washington County Crisis Line at 503-291-9111.

"We want to assure the community that help is still available for those in crisis," reads a statement provided by Kris Puttler-Miller, program director at LifeWorks NW, which operates the center with support from Washington County Behavioral Health. "Calling the crisis line is the best first step to getting help for yourself or a loved one."

Those in immediate or life-threatening danger should call 9-1-1.

The Hawthorn Walk-in Center, located at 5240 N.E. Elam Young Pkwy. in Hillsboro, opened in 2017. County commissioners have heralded it as a great public health resource, specifically because of its ability to accept walk-ins.

While the center serves a wide variety of people who need mental health care, its walk-up services are particularly helpful for vulnerable groups, like the homeless and the uninsured, who can't access critical mental health services elsewhere.

In a follow-up interview via email, Puttler-Miller said that staffing levels have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The staffing challenges are part of a nationwide health provider shortage caused in part by the pandemic," she said. "In addition, as a nonprofit, LifeWorks competes directly with hospital and private health care providers who pay more."

The news comes about a year after workers at Hawthorn voted to unionize, saying that working conditions there are unsustainable. They cited pandemic policies, staff turnover and inadequate compensation as chief reasons for submitting union certification to Oregon AFSCME Council 75.

The news also comes as Washington County has taken steps to bolster its behavioral health division. A new facility, called the Center for Addictions Triage and Treatment (CATT), is currently in development and the county is looking for a site.

As for the last-minute nature of the announcement, county officials said that they waited until the week of the service suspension because people don't tend to plan in advance on using the walk-in services.

"We waited until this week because people don't generally plan to walk in to crisis services in advance, so we felt that an announcement closer to the date made sense and would get more traction," said spokesperson Wendy Gordon when queried by Pamplin Media Group on the timing of the announcement.


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