Roseburg could have a shot at becoming home to a respite center for people suffering from mental health crises.
House Bill 2831 was introduced last week by Rep. Cedric Hayden, R-Fall Creek, who represents North Douglas and South Lane Counties. It would create a pilot program to operate three respite centers, one in Portland, one in Eastern Oregon and one in Southern Oregon.
If it passes, $2.25 million in general fund dollars would be allocated for the centers. Local nonprofit organizations could submit bids to operate the Southern Oregon pilot facility, whose location has not yet been selected.
Hayden said each center would be small, with six bunks, and house mental health patients for two weeks. The respite centers would provide peer counseling from people who have themselves weathered mental health crises, either from their own illness or that of a loved one.
Without such a facility, a 9-1-1 call can lead to a person in the middle of a mental health crisis winding up with a short stay in the county jail or a local hospital.
If they are put in jail, their health care coverage continuity is broken, and they aren’t able to stay connected to whatever mental health services they were receiving, he said. They might ultimately wind up with an expensive stay at a state mental hospital, which pulls them out of their communities and costs the taxpayers lots of money.
“When it comes to mental health, these people just need somebody to lean on. Basically, they need a friend. They don’t need a county jail or a state hospital stay. They need to get ahold of what the immediate problem is and get back into services and get stabilized. That’s what these peer respite centers are intended to hopefully do,” he said.
Hayden said three new centers won’t take care of the entire problem across the state, but would serve as a pilot project and generate useful data. If they could reduce the number of people going to the county jail or the hospital by 30, 40 or even 50 percent, he said, that would mean a significant cost savings.
He said currently Oregon spends $3.2 billion a biennium on mental health, but has poor results.
“There’s a big mismatch between how we’re spending that money and the results we’re getting,” he said.
There are about 13 states that have similar programs, and Hayden said he’s optimistic the Oregon legislature will approve the pilot project here.
“It’s an idea that some other states are trying that looks very, very promising, and we’d like to bring it to Oregon,” he said.