Douglas County has received a $1.4 million state grant to help repeat offenders for whom mental health or substance abuse treatment might be more effective than a stint in jail.

The money will fund a new, locally designed project. The county was one of six statewide to receive the IMPACTS grant, short for Improving People’s Access to Community-based Treatment, Supports and Services. The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians also received an IMPACTS grant of more than $400,000. It was one of five tribes to receive the funding.

Douglas County Local Public Safety Coordinating Council Coordinator Melissa McRobbie-Toll said a group of 247 people has been identified that will receive the services. The Umpqua Health Alliance chose people who were booked into the Douglas County Jail at least four times in 2019, were on the Oregon Health Plan and had sought treatment for either substance abuse or mental illness.

These are people who cycle in and out of the jail, and sometimes the emergency room, and who for the most part commit nuisance crimes like disorderly conduct, McRobbie said.

McRobbie said a recent county survey showed that up to 34% of people booked into the Douglas County Jail may have a serious mental illness.

“Jails and the hospital are not necessarily the place for these individuals where they’re going to get the help that they need,” she said.

Adapt CEO Greg Brigham said the money will fund a new Intensive Care Coordination Team.

“This coordination team will be available whenever one of those individuals sort of trips the wire, so to speak. They show up in jail, or are about to be in jail, or they show up at the emergency department or in our crisis services,” Brigham said.

But he said the money will also help fund the services that they’ll need next.

About $80,000 will contribute the last piece of startup funding for a planned sobering center that’s been long in the works for Douglas County. It will give police a place to bring people who are publicly intoxicated where they can dry out rather than going to jail.

The grant will also provide some funding that will be used to develop 23-hour crisis resolution rooms.

These would essentially be one-room efficiency apartments with a bed and a kitchenette and a restroom and so on, a quiet and safe place where an individual who is experiencing a mental health crisis could stay short term.

“It’s basically just a safe harbor for a short period of time while other things can be arranged,” Brigham said.

Brigham said often the crisis resolves within a day or two, even though the problems aren’t over. Once the crisis passes, the individual can be engaged in other services.

The grant also will make it possible to increase the number of detox beds from 11 to 16 in Roseburg and move the detox center out of the Crossroads Residential Treatment facility, freeing up 11 beds there for inpatient treatment.

The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians collaborated with the county on the project. Its grant funding will be used to focus on a smaller group of individuals who are tribal members.

“Helping our tribal communities safely divert people with behavioral health needs from continual emergency room visits and arrests has never been more important for Oregon’s tribes,” said Sharon Stanphill, chief health officer for the Cow Creek Tribe in a press release.

“This funding will make a huge difference, as our tribal leaders and staff know culturally specific prevention and treatment services are critical for our members,” Stanphill said.

Each county that received grant funding came up with its own unique proposal, so collecting the data will help county and state officials learn which interventions are most successful.

Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice said this will be an opportunity to understand more about what triggers this group of people’s mental health breakdowns that have previously landed them in jail and what treatment they should receive instead.

“It really is trying to address the root of the problem instead of picking the fruit off the tree,” he said.

He said it would be wishful thinking to believe this will solve the problem completely, but it does give the county a starting point to begin addressing criminal justice issues it really hasn’t had the capacity to tackle well.

“I don’t know how to really measure the impact of that yet, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what it’s going to be. It can’t be anything but positive,” he said.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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