News Release: Multnomah County releases report on mental health system

June 27, 2018

Multnomah County released a new report today on its mental health system that finds the county has many elements of a modern system with an array of services that use progressive, evidence-based practices, peer support and culturally responsive approaches.

But the 130-page “Multnomah County Mental Health System Analysis” also finds a disconnect between the system’s aims and how the system is experienced by a significant number of stakeholders. Other key challenges include an overworked, underpaid workforce; a shortage of supportive housing and multiple agencies providing funding and oversight can make those who need help the most unable to find it. Researchers, who interviewed hundreds of community members and attended public listening sessions, said some of the largest barriers are faced by people who are homeless or have both mental health and substance use issues.

“We know there are gaps. As an emergency room doctor, I’ve seen those gaps first-hand,’’ said Multnomah County Commissioner Dr. Sharon Meieran. “Now we have a much clearer idea of how we can improve the quality of care and access for people who are most vulnerable and least able to navigate these complexities.’’

In 2017, 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:

  • 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.

David Hidalgo, director of Multnomah County Mental Health and Addiction Services, said the report affirms the core strengths of the system and sheds light on where improvements must be made in workforce retention, peer support and specific populations.

“As the Local Mental Health Authority, our goal is to ensure everyone in our community is able to access the highest quality mental health services,” said Hidalgo. “We look forward to working together with our partners to solve problems and build on our system's current strengths.”

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.

Commissioner Meieran will host an event tonight, Thursday June 28, at 6 p.m. to hear from the lead researcher about the findings and recommendations. The event is from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Multnomah Building Boardroom, 501 SE Hawthorne.