Douglas County (KPTM) — The Douglas County Board of Commissioners hosted a virtual public forum on Thursday evening to hear directly from the public what they feel needs the most attention when it comes to mental health.
Police, social workers, medical personnel and concerned citizens took part.
Overall, most of the attendees wanted some of the same things: a three-digit phone number similar to 911 they could call when they or someone they know are in a crisis.
One attendee brought up an experience where the police were involved because someone dialed 911. She said the police made matters worse because they had weapons on them.
Others at the forum talked about a program that has been implemented in Eugene, Oregon called CAHOOTS.
CAHOOTS, according to the Eugene website, stands for “Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets.” It is a “mobile crisis intervention program” that is staffed with people who are essentially police without weapons and with mental health training. They provide “initial contact and transport for people who are intoxicated, mentally ill, or disoriented.”
Others said mental health services need to be more readily available. One of the attendees was a mental health therapist who said therapists are “overwhelmed” with the number of patients on waiting lists due to the pandemic. She said there was not enough therapists to go around.
A lot of people were concerned about police shootings in the U.S., particularly when it comes to those in the midst of a mental health crisis. They said that police need to be trained on how to deal with someone with mental health issues. Two police officers were in attendance and said new recruits are being trained in mental health first aid.
Some were also concerned that police officers need somewhere they can go for mental health issues and to talk about what they are going through on the job.
A lot of issues were covered during the hour.
One of the attendees spoke about the need for pre-adoption training and counseling as she had adopted a child from foster care with mental health issues. She said there are not enough resources for parents in these situations.
Another attendee spoke about her “severe depression,” and how it won’t let her help herself sometimes. She needs a place like a walk-in clinic where she can find people who can help her find social workers, doctors, or even transportation to make it to appointments with these people.
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners would like anyone who wants to share their thoughts on mental health issues in Douglas County to call them at 402-444-7025.
Anyone who would like more information on the CAHOOTS program visit http://www.eugene-or.gov.