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OPINION: A retired Hillsboro police lieutenant explains why he supports Ballot Measure 109.

Oregon's Ballot Measure 109 is a novel effort to allow licensed mental health clinicians to administer psilocybin treatment. As a career law enforcement professional who promotes mental health among the ranks, I am certain this measure benefits the health and safety of our communities.

Despite great need, we are ill-equipped to address mental health crises on a large scale. People with mental health disorders who have not found relief with other treatment options are the majority of people involved in mental health-related 9-1-1 calls. Treatment-resistant depression alone is estimated to impact over five million Americans and 35,000 Oregonians.

When police are called, we can only offer short-term Band-Aids. Our mere presence can increase the likelihood of adverse outcomes for those who need professional support the most.

This is personal to every police officer. We are at elevated risk for occupational stress injury. We are 54% more likely to commit suicide than the general public and twice as likely to experience clinical depression.

I have dedicated my career to improving officer health, humanity, and mental health response. In addition to years supervising and training crisis intervention teams, I dedicated the last decade to developing a successful resiliency training program so our men and women in uniform can improve their own health and effectiveness in serving the public.

There are effective approaches to shifting mental health care away from law enforcement. Rather than police, Eugene sends the CAHOOTS team of mental health professionals to address mental health crises. CAHOOTS has reduced police calls by 20%, freeing police resources to deal with serious crime and providing the person in crisis with skillful intervention.

There are also effective approaches to preventing some of those crises. Psilocybin, a naturally occurring compound found in some species of mushrooms, is one.

For decades, though, the war on drugs has prevented the study and use of promising treatments like psilocybin to aid in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Measure 109 would authorize facilitators to deliver psilocybin therapy to those who can safely benefit, in a tightly regulated environment.

Early research demonstrates that clinical psilocybin interventions offer hope for people living with chronic psychological distress. Measure 109 has the potential to help thousands of them, reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, and prevent crises from requiring police resources.

After 24 years in law enforcement, I have seen the urgent need to combat our nation's mental health epidemic among officers and civilians alike. We must deploy all available tools in this fight.

I will be voting yes on Measure 109 this fall so we can start getting mental health and drug use off the shoulders of law enforcement and into the hands of trained, qualified professionals.

Richard Goerling served with the Hillsboro Police Department for 22 years, retiring with the rank of lieutenant. He is the founder of Mindful Badge and a speaker for the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), a nonprofit group of police, prosecutors, judges, and other law enforcement officials working to improve the criminal justice system. He lives in Hillsboro.


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