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Michele Veenker: Sheriff's Levy shouldn't be considered an 'either/or proposal'

Michele VeenkerOn Feb. 25, Pamplin Media Group reported on the Clackamas County commissioners voting to support the Sheriff's Levy. In that, they quoted me. Although the quote was correct, because I was not allowed to finish my testimony, my quote was taken out of context and left the readers with the misconception that I was against the levy, when in fact I support it.

The reporter said I "supported the idea of increasing bed capacity for mental illness but questioned whether the sheriff's office is the best agency to administer such services."

It was not an either/or proposal, but that we need both, the mental health beds included in the levy, and to provide the resources to keep people out of jail in the first place. There will always be people with mental health issues in our jail and the sheriff's office does the best they can to provide for them, but they just do not have the resources they need.

If I would have been able to finish, you would have heard:

"In conclusion, I would like to suggest that you, our Clackamas County commissioners approve this levy, but to keep in mind, when deciding to approve this levy and throughout your current budgeting process the following:

"One, we need to divert people with mental illness from jail.

"Two, for those who cannot be diverted, we must ensure mental health services within the jail facility are adequate for people's needs.

"And three, for those released from the jail, we need to ensure they receive the continuation of services and resources to stay healthy after so that they may never return again."

Michele Veenker is the mother of five children who were raised in Clackamas County and who live with mental health and substance use disorders. She is the executive director of NAMI Clackamas. This testimony was given as a personal testimony and not as a representative of NAMI Clackamas.


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