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Woodburn is seeking a 1.5 million block grant to help house Love INC, other non-profits

Two separate presentations had a common thread at the Monday, Aug. 12, Woodburn City Council meeting – helping people in crisis.

Both groups got a thumbs up.CITY OF WOODBURN - City of Woodburn

Woodburn Police Chief Jim Ferraris, Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast and Ann-Marie Banfield, a program supervisor with Marion County Mental Health, all spoke on behalf of the Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT) and its intergovernmental agreement with Woodburn. Meanwhile, Curt Jones and Bill Park, co-executive directors of Love INC of North Marion County, spoke on behalf of the work of nonprofits.

MCRT and Love INC are both in the business of helping people at crucial moments in their lives, and ultimately the council approved $150,000 to fund Woodburn's partnership in MCRT. The council also gave City Administrator Scott Derickson the nod to pursue a $1.5 million community development block grant from Business Oregon, which would be used to house Love INC and other partnering nonprofits in Woodburn.

MCRT's primary function is to get the right professional on the spot, and that is often means a qualified mental health professional. Woodburn has been part of it since 2017, and it's proved to be a boon.

"This has not only been a wonderful partnership, but it's had a profound impact on our community," Ferraris said. "I'd say somewhere between 40 to 50 percent of our workload has some nexus with people who are in some mode of mental-health crisis or suffering from addiction or alcoholism…It creates issues within our community; it affects social issues, homelessness, violent behavior, family behavior – the dynamics are far and wide."

That's where MCRT becomes a vital tool.

"Having this intensive, acute, on-scene ability to intervene in these instances where people are in crisis and get them help – not take them to jail, not criminalize behavior that's related to mental health issues – has been very positive for our organization and our community," Ferraris avowed.

Banfield portrayed the vitality of mental-health professionals by describing a specific Woodburn incident.

"We had a woman whose husband suicided in front of her," Banfield recounted. "As you can imagine that was horribly traumatic. And it was also tied in with a lot of domestic violence.

"Our team was able to be there and spend a great deal of time with her…freeing up officers to go out and do police work, and let us do the mental health work."

A similar theme emerged in the nonprofit discussion as Derickson pointed out that there are services local governments are not equipped to deal with, like homeless referrals. Various nonprofits pick up the slack, which in turn provides some community stability.

If Woodburn is successful in securing the grant, the vision would be to house Love INC and roughly a half dozen other anchor nonprofit tenants. Love INC would be the primary beneficiary, and it would oversee the building and its operations.

"From Love INC's perspective, one of the great benefits of this vision…our client-care people, who are on the front lines dealing with the people we talk to, as they assess the needs we come up with many things, and I would say most of them are beyond our scope," Jones said. "So we work closely with a number of other nonprofits in the area."

The process of directing people to the right nonprofit for a particular need can slow the process of getting help. Having those entities in the same building would streamline it.

"The vision of a shared intake process, where a client could come in and enter their information once instead of having to go to each nonprofit and be asked the same questions…that's one of the great benefits."

Park said the directors have been exploring this model for some time and communicating with nonprofits in Dallas that have used it successfully.

"The addition of a one-stop shop, a center where we can have something in north Marion County doesn't often reach us," Park said. "A lot of services are housed in Salem (including) a lot of services that cover northern Marion County."

Jones added that there are also some nonprofit agencies that have staff, budget and resources to help Woodburn, but they are hampered since they don't have a brick-and-mortar presence.

"I think it's an excellent idea; It's an idea that's time has come," Councilor Robert Carney said.

The council voted unanimously to allow Derickson to pursue the grant, and Mayor Eric Swenson saluted Love INC afterward.

"Thanks to Love INC for having come out of nowhere a number of years ago, to so quickly establishing yourself as an organization that can not only help people in need at the moment, but to have this vision for our community," Swenson said.


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