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Residents, elected officials discuss faults in local mental health resources

PMG PHOTO: ANGEL ROSAS - Troutdale Mayor Randy Lauer and forum host Olivia Huerta discussing ways to improve mental health resources in East County like emergency responses to mental health crises. A group of residents, elected officials and mental health experts came together on Friday, Sept. 30, to discuss issues concerning mental health resources in East County.

The discussion was hosted by East County resident and Central City Concern behavioral health care coordinator Olivia Huerta.

Huerta said that she felt compelled to open a conversation about mental health after seeing how often people with mental health issues were slipping through the cracks.

"Our system is so broken in Oregon that we can dismantle it completely, start over and become a model for the rest of our nation," Huerta said.

The discussion brought together elected officials and local leaders including Troutdale mayor Randy Lauer, Rep. Zach Hudson, Fairview City Councilor Wendy Lawton, Wood Village City Councilor Jairo Rios-Campos, Geoff Kenway of Kenway Benefits Group and Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran.

Conversation ranged from concerns around a lack of a centralized mental health crisis line, declining levels of mental health professionals, transitional housing and wraparound services for the East County houseless community and a host of other problems.

"It is inspirational to come together with people who have so much knowledge about the community and who care so deeply and can see the disconnects in our systems," Meieran said.

Though each speaker had their own grievances in regards to the state of local mental health resources, each agreed that major work needed to be done to fortify existing resources and develop resources that are needed in the community.

"Small cities in East County we only have limited ability and power, so I was glad that we had state and county representatives here because they hold the key to helping the problems regarding mental health services over here," Lauer said. "We can have conversations and plan events all the time, but unless we have that partnership with health services and the funding mechanisms through the state we can only do so much. It speaks volumes that we have multiple levels of government here today."

Although Huerta hopes to have more conversations surrounding mental health, she is also pushing to make sure that action is spurred by these conversations and meetings.


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