June 28, 2018

Multnomah County unveiled a new report on its mental health system Thursday, finding the county has many elements of a modern system that incorporates evidence-based practices, offers peer support, and provides trauma-informed and culturally responsive services.

Commissioner Meieran led the County to contract with Human Services Research Institute to analyze the mental health care system in Multnomah County

But the 130-page “Multnomah County Mental Health System Analysis” also finds a disconnect between the system’s mission and the way many stakeholders experience the system. Key challenges include an overworked, underpaid workforce and a shortage of supportive housing. Layers of federal, state and local oversight and funding create a complexity that makes navigating the system challenging, especially for people experiencing homelessness, and those with co-occurring mental health issues and substance use disorders.

“We can act locally to make an impact on this system, especially now,’’ said Multnomah County Commissioner Dr. Sharon Meieran. “I am firmly committed to working with the community, institutional and organizational partners, advocates, and others to develop and act on a true, shared, person-centered, holistic vision for how we can be providing mental health care in our community.”

Last year Commissioner Meieran led the County to contract with Human Services Research Institute (HSRI) to analyze the mental health care system in Multnomah County. After examining data and conducting interviews or listening sessions with nearly 300 stakeholders who rely on the publicly funded system, researchers recommended:

Bevin Croft, an analyst with the consultant firm HSRI, briefs commissioners on the mental health report
Bevin Croft, an analyst with the consultant firm HSRI, briefs commissioners on the mental health report

  • Working with service users, families and other stakeholders to develop a vision and action plan for an improved system.
  • Elevating the role of lived experience in County leadership by establishing a director-level position in the Health Department staffed by a person with lived experience in the mental health system.
  • Conducting further analysis of data and funding streams to identify opportunities for expanding capacity and making other improvements.

Commissioners praised the work and reaffirmed their commitment to improving mental health services in Multnomah County.

“If you talk to people in the public about what are their concerns, it’s mental health care and people who have mental health issues,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “That is right up there with some of the top things we’re looking at, so we’re looking forward to our next steps.”

“I know we can and we will do better,” Commissioner Loretta Smith said. “Reports and analyses such as this are here, and I’m confident it’s going to help guide us and help us with becoming one of the best mental health providers in the country.”

The report is being released as a draft so that community members can submit corrections before the document is finalized in mid-July. Corrections can be submitted here.