Senior Staff Writer
A $2.3 million plan to support community recovery from the Oct. 1, 2015 shooting at Umpqua Community College moved one step closer to approval last week. The Oregon House Rules Committee unanimously approved House Bill 2590 Thursday. It would provide money to pay for a range of services, from hiring new mental health workers to creating a document outlining the lessons the community learned from the tragedy.
State Rep. Cedric Hayden, R-Fall Creek, the chief sponsor of HB 2590, said what community leaders have learned from other communities facing similar crises is that recovery doesn’t happen in a year or two. The impacts on the community last much longer, he said. UCC is in Hayden’s District 7.
Hayden told the committee Thursday he was a messenger for The Leadership Council, a group of Douglas County leaders working to help the community recover. The funding request comes from that group, he said.
Other speakers Thursday included Ford Family Foundation CEO Anne Kubisch, who said the impact of the shooting reached beyond the nine victims who died, the eight who were injured and the others in the classroom. The community includes their parents, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, neighbors and friends, she said.
“This was a community tragedy,” she said.
The trauma, she said, will require long-term healing.
Rep. Dallas Heard, R-Winston, whose district includes many of the victims, and Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, whose district includes North County, also asked the committee to approve HB 2590.
“Things will never be the same again,” Heard said.
He said he was acquainted with one of the victims who died, Kim Dietz, and now when he sees her family members he sees in their eyes that what happened is never going to go away. The “wounds and the scars” will live on much longer than a year or two, he said.
Prozanski said there’s no way to make everyone whole, but it’s important to help the community.
“We as a state have an obligation and we have the ability to assist,” he said.
Hayden said the plan was reduced from $3 million to $2.3 million because federal funding came through to cover some of the things in the original request.
The proposal approved by the House Rules Committee Thursday included $1,350,000 for mental health services, including funding for K-12 youth trauma counselors, counseling for emergency workers who responded to the shooting, and additional mental health workers at Umpqua Community College and in the community.
Pat Sublette of Douglas Education Service District testified that children are showing up at school with diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder. She said the schools don’t have mental health counselors and don’t have a way to meet those students’ needs.
According to documents submitted with the funding request, domestic violence has increased nearly 20 percent since the shooting, and homicides have doubled. Schools and employers report increased mental health issues, absenteeism and illness. And police, fire and ambulance services have trouble retaining staff and filling job vacancies.
Victims advocacy would also receive funding. Douglas County would receive $160,000 to hire a victim’s assistance advocate and a community recovery navigator. Battered Persons’ Advocacy would receive $40,000 to hire a half-time employee, and UCC would be able to hire a half-time victim accommodation specialist.
The budget also includes $280,000 to reimburse nonprofit and government organizations that have expenses related to the tragedy.
It sets aside $100,000 to create a document outlining lessons learned and recommended policies should similar events happen in the future. The document will be created by the Portland State University Center for Public Service.
It also includes $250,000 to establish an “economic development brand strategy to overcome negative image” through the Umpqua Economic Partnership.
The bill’s supporters acknowledged other funding that has come to the community because of the tragedy, including $6 million from the legislature to rebuild Snyder Hall and enhance campus safety, $1.2 million from the United States Department of Justice, $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Education, $118,000 from the state Department of Justice, $55,000 from the governor’s office and $1.3 million in local donations collected by the UCC Strong Fund for victims, families and first responders. They said HB 2590 addresses unmet needs that haven’t been funded by any of these sources.
Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, made a motion that the committee move the bill to the House floor with a “do pass” recommendation, but first refer it to a joint Ways and Means subcommittee. The motion was unanimously approved by the committee.
Prozanski and Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, co-sponsored the bill.