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LPSCC members determine priorities for assisting vulnerable populations in county

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Julia Jackson, right, is the director for Columbia Community Mental Health. Jackson is part of a multi-disciplinary team, including judges and law enforcement officials, exploring ways to improve mental health services in Columbia County, including for those who are recently diverted into or released from the jail. Columbia County's Local Public Safety Coordinating Council, or LPSCC, gathered stakeholders last week to determine next steps toward enacting top priorities for the county's providers.

LPSCC also committed to funding the jail-based mental health clinician that operates through Columbia Community Mental Health. The position has been funded by Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc., or GOBHI, but that funding runs out soon.

At the LPSCC meeting, stakeholders agreed to keep the position funded until December, giving CCMH and jail providers an extension while they try to find ongoing funding for the position.

"Law enforcement here is pretty focused on behavioral health needs," CCMH Director Julia Jackson said. "We consistently are working with Sheriff (Brian) Pixley, Janet Evans (Community Justice Director), and Captain (Tony) Weaver to identify ways we can provide more services."

A top priority for the county is a 24-hour crisis respite center. Currently, law enforcement have nowhere local to take people in crisis, other than booking them into the jail. CCMH director Jackson, county Commissioner Alex Tardif, a police officer and a firefighter or EMT will lead a group to visit the Yamhill County crisis respite center, which Columbia County providers see as a good model.

Driving people to places like Unity Center in Portland is inconvenient and often ineffective. Jackson and a representative from Oregon State Police will explore ways to streamline the process of transporting inmates to Portland-area hospitals.

The SIM, or Sequential Intercept Mapping, process employed showed a need for more resources both before and after people spend time in jail. A SIM is a community planning tool for identifying gaps, assessing available resources and deciding on a course of action for improvement.

Columbia County Circuit Judge Ted Grove, SAFE director Ellyn Bell, CCMH jail diversion specialist Marnie Crosse and jail Capt. Weaver will explore potential ways to provide more community support services for those leaving the Columbia County Jail.

Columbia County Circuit Judge Jenefer Grant and District Attorney Jeff Auxier are tasked with finding ways to get defendants out of the criminal justice system.

"There seems to be a recognition that there are criminal defendants who do not necessarily need to go through our justice system, and that public safety could be better served by diverting these people out of the system and toward services," Auxier wrote in a summary of the LPSCC meeting.

Jackson and Auxier plan to work with legal counsel to find a way to best share information between agencies, while following patient-privacy rules, like HIPAA.

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