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Dale Vogt: Mental health services depend in large part on access to transportation

Clackamas County commissioners have approved relocating our mental health buildings to make way for the construction of a courthouse in Oregon City. Our buildings, Hilltop and Stewart Center, will become a courthouse parking lot. And although it's a bit more costly to relocate rather than stay put, our commissioners are choosing to move.

How will such an end affect already tight services such as meetings with supported employment, which are designed to help you work? And, will our transportation needs still be met if we move? Also, there are certain clients who serve on committees to give insights that help form a community network of integrity. So, this is to say we aren't simply burdens to the taxpayers.

A center has to be noticeably present for myriad reasons. The Stewart Center treats clients with similar afflictions who are referred to the center to receive affordable treatment. And with time and resources, we can run the Stewart Center and provide that treatment, which makes clients assets to the community.

Maintaining services is timely because fatigue is setting in from fighting COVID. While not perfect, earnest management is taking a gamble, cutting back on personnel schedules when there are means to do so. Using technical innovations and team building, many clients can be referred and seen virtually; this includes those with past COVID afflictions.

How do clients get services? They are referred. Yet many patients do wander into the Stewart Center. And staff members often are unable to assist those clients immediately or completely. So, without much help, they end up taking their chances with the elements.

Should staff turn away those in need? I think not. That is like saying, "Do you want to go out on the streets?" I have been there before, so I couldn't say that. Walking the streets all day and night falls short of meeting our basic needs. We still need services and a center to go to where we can ease mental anguish and open the door to social services and affordable housing.Dale Vogt

What ultimately matters isn't just what people think of you inside the Stewart Center, but also what everybody on the outside thinks of you. Progress here keeps our community learning and building. I believe there is tolerance, acceptance and greater understanding of our core issues.

There is a marked improvement in human behavior we can all take pride in. Even though we can still see homeless on and off the streets, a few have died in the elements. But that's a few too many, and, among the current homeless population, 60% have mental illnesses, drug free or not, and suffer.

If our community supports a continuance of mental health treatment with modest gains to keep up with inflation, that gives me faith. And from what I have seen while driving all over the metro area and watching national news broadcasts, there is greater understanding, warmth, shelter and client satisfaction at our centers.

Clackamas County indeed has a moral compass that's helping all of us at least meet our basic needs. That, in itself, eases the pain of mental anguish, and with success in treatment, we can all sleep better at night, and in good conscience.

Dale Vogt is a resident of Jennings Lodge, an unincorporated area of Clackamas County near Milwaukie and Gladstone.


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