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Commissioner Sharon Meieran Newsletter - February 2019
The topic of this newsletter is collaboration and connectedness. It feels as if this topic has presented itself to me seemingly at every turn throughout the past month, so I wanted to share some of what has been happening.
First, I traveled with a delegation of Portlanders to Los Angeles to learn more about how that region has been able to engage multiple stakeholders across multiple sectors to support two measures to increase resources for reducing and preventing homelessness. So far, the 2016 Los Angeles City bond has funded nearly 2,800 housing units, including 2,088 supportive housing units paired with services. A complementary 2017 Los Angeles County measure has funded services and strategies to permanently house a total of 11,616 individuals and family members. In a county of over 10 million people and 88 cities, collaboration has been essential to coalescing around a plan to fund affordable housing, as well as the supportive services proven to keep those who are most vulnerable stable and housed. Here in the Portland region, voters passed a historic bond last fall that is building affordable housing, and we are working to implement our supportive housing plan to ensure there are services like mental health and addictions treatment to help people maintain stable housing. In LA, it was inspiring to see how housing advocates, the business community, philanthropy, the faith community, health care, community organizations and individuals were able to work together toward turning a plan to end homelessness into reality.
On the heels of my trip to Los Angeles, I also attended the biennial Justice Reinvestment Summit in Salem, where people from public safety, behavioral health, the court system, and other disciplines came together to tackle issues related to reducing our reliance on costly incarceration and improving public safety through alternatives. I learned about some innovative processes and projects underway in Multnomah County and elsewhere in Oregon, especially around the intersection of the criminal justice system and behavioral health. And I was inspired by keynote speaker, Miami-Dade County Judge Steve Leifman, who was able to lead a transformation the criminal justice system that had the highest prevalence of mental illness in the country. The Miami-Dade County system is a model that demonstrates the power of collaboration within in a criminal justice system that is tightly connected with the system of behavioral health care. I am interested in exploring how aspects of the Miami-Dade model could help here in Multnomah County.
And finally, I attended a meeting of the County’s Age-Friendly Health Services, Equity and Prevention committee, which seeks to move forward the health- and equity-related work included in Multnomah County’s Age-Friendly Action Plan. “Age-friendly” refers to inclusivity and accessibility of older people with varying needs, as well as emphasizing enablement rather than disablement. Age-friendly designs, policies, and programs are increasingly important as we shift to an older society, but these age-friendly efforts work for everyone regardless of age. The meeting included a range of participants from the Oregon Health Equity Alliance (OHEA), dementia research and support, The Intertwine Alliance; Portland Parks & Recreation, Multnomah County Library, Portland State University’s Institute on Aging, Oregon Health & Science University, and others. We heard from OHEA and Health Department staff about our Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), which focuses on addressing institutional racism. I was struck by the common links that were identified between issues, including racial equity, digital equity, housing and houselessness, mental health and substance use disorder, dementia, and climate change, among others.
The bottom line is that there is so much multi-sector work that can help us identify innovative solutions to the most difficult problems we face as a community. As an ER doctor, I see how failure to acknowledge and account for these connections leads to siloing and people falling through the cracks in our systems and ending up in crisis. By working “upstream” to prevent problems, we can stop a cascade of effects that are all connected. Often, this requires us to reach out to people who are in totally different jobs or settings to get help to a person. I also believe that we need to develop policy and funding frameworks that are flexible enough to support multi-system efforts while also assuring accountability and transparency.
Thank you for reading, and as always please reach out to me via email, phone, or snail mail. I always love to hear your responses, questions and ideas.
In good health,
Multnomah County District 1 Commissioner
Commissioner Sharon Meieran Newsletter - January 2019
I hope you had a great holiday season and I wish you a very Happy New Year (though the new year already feels so long ago…)! The Board celebrated the New Year with the swearing in of Chair Kafoury and Sheriff Reese for second terms, welcoming Jennifer McGuirk as our new County Auditor, and hearing moving words from new District 2 Commissioner Susheela Jayapal. Reflecting on how wonderful it was to engage with friends and family over the holiday season and new year, and with the positive energy at Multnomah County, I wanted to start the year with a focus on community engagement.
As a County Commissioner, I have always been impressed with the level of passion, awareness, interest and involvement that members of our community show in regard to the issues facing our region. I strongly believe that public engagement with a broad and diverse array of people is essential to the work we do at the County.
True, meaningful community involvement in government requires us to develop structures that institutionalize the importance of community engagement, input, and guidance. For example, we have community advisory committees informing our policies on an array of topics including sustainability, public health, libraries, mental health, aging services, and many, many other programs and issue areas. Volunteers also contribute time and energy to help guide the Board as we make decisions about the budget through Community Budget Advisory Committees (CBACs). CBACs are groups of community members that review departmental budgets and operations and make recommendations to the Board of Commissioners about how Multnomah County can best use its resources to serve the community.
Commissioners are assigned to connect with and participate on a number of advisory groups. In addition to several other assignments I have held over the past two years, I am very excited to be the new appointed Board liaison to the Aging Services Advisory Council (ASAC) and Disability Services Advisory Council (DSAC). The ASAC advises Multnomah County’s Aging, Disability, & Veterans Services Division (ADVSD) to ensure that all older adults, people with disabilities, and Veterans thrive in diverse and supportive communities. Advisory council members advocate for system level changes, provide advice to ADVSD regarding policies and programs, and connect with the broader community to understand the issues and priorities of ADVSD target populations. The DSAC advises ADVSD on how best to serve people with disabilities in a respectful and conscientious manner, advocates for issues that are pertinent to the life and welfare of people with disabilities in Multnomah County, and works to educate the general public of the issues and concerns facing all people with disabilities living and working in Multnomah County.
If you’re interested in getting involved you can always start with the County’s general volunteer interest form, which can help match your experience and interests to available volunteer opportunities on County advisory boards and commissions. Right now, there is one opportunity I want to highlight in particular. Multnomah County is currently accepting applications for the County’s Community Involvement Committee (CIC). The CIC is foundational in bringing community voice into County decision-making. CIC members will engage in an ongoing review of the County's community involvement policies and programs, bring community concerns and ideas to County leadership, and assist in facilitating communication between the County and the community. In 2018, the CIC was on hiatus while the Office of Community Involvement conducted a review of the County’s community involvement process and the role of the CIC. With the review compete, we are currently recruiting fifteen CIC members, including at least one member from each District. Applications are due Monday, January 28th, by 5pm.
Finally, on the theme of community engagement, I have recently started knocking on doors in District 1 in an effort to hear directly from constituents. As a candidate for office I walked door-to-door to meet people and hear what was important to them, but I didn’t want to stop engaging with my constituents in this way once I was elected to office. I am working to visit every neighborhood association in my district, and holding organized opportunities for constituents to talk with me at events like constituent coffees. I truly want to hear from as many people as possible. You can always speak to me and to my fellow Commissioners directly at any of our regularly scheduled Board meetings by signing up to give public testimony. If you’re active in a neighborhood association in District 1 and would like to have me speak at one of your meetings, please contact my office. If you have ideas for events that I could organize or participate in, I want to hear from you. And if you live in the district, don’t be surprised if you find me knocking on your door!
This is going to be an exciting year, and I look forward to sharing experiences and hearing from you about issues, questions, ideas, concerns, or whatever may be on your mind. Happy 2019!
In good health,
Multnomah County District 1 Commissioner
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