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The virtual community conversation will include a panel discussion with local mental health and addiction experts.

COURTESY IMAGE: REP. JANEEN SOLLMAN - Oregon State Rep. Janeen Sollman will host a community discussion about mental health and well-being during the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, Aug. 6.The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated people's mental health concerns, even as it has hindered their ability to manage and seek treatment for issues such as addiction, says state Rep. Janeen Sollman.

That's why Sollman, a Hillsboro Democrat who also represents North Plains in the Oregon House, has organized a virtual community conversation and panel discussion with local mental health and well-being experts from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6.

The event will be an opportunity for people with mental illnesses and addictions, as well as their family members and friends, to talk about their experiences, or to simply listen and be directed to resources.

"COVID has brought out so many issues that we are all facing, whether it's jobs or healthcare or paying bills," Sollman said. "I know that this is a stress and a strain on people, so I wanted folks to know that they're not alone. I wanted people to know that there are resources out there. Treatment might look very different today, but there is support out there."

The event will be attended by panelists including Kristin Burke, director of Washington County's mental and behavioral health division, and Elizabeth Nahl, a child development specialist at McKinney Elementary School in Hillsboro. Mike Marshall, of Oregon Recovers, a nonprofit seeking to support people managing addictions, will also be a panelist.

Sollman said people do not need to be dealing with addiction and mental health issues themselves to attend. People who want to make sure they're well-versed in what resources are available in case a friend or family member is in crisis are encouraged to attend as well.

"I know that parents are really worried what the school year is going to look like," Sollman said. "If I know my kid is going to be virtually going to school, how do I find out how they can talk with a counselor?"

If people are interested in the topic but aren't able to attend the virtual event as it happens, they can view a recording of the discussion on Sollman's YouTube page.

Sollman said she and her colleagues in the Oregon Legislature are working to bolster support for people under added mental health stress from the pandemic by providing financial aid, moratoriums on evictions and resources for victims of domestic abuse.

Community conversations such as this are a way for lawmakers to hear from constituents about how else they can help, Sollman said.

"I learn so much about what's happening in the community by these conversations," Sollman said. "When there's time for legislative action, I can be able to plug that into, 'This is what I've heard from my community.'"

People can register for the event here.

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