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SALEM, OR -- State laws currently limit the number of "sober stations" allowed in Oregon; a new set of bills would do away with the cap and provide funding for the facilities. Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson testified in Salem, this week, in support of the proposal. He's been working to open a crisis stabilization center in Central Oregon for the past year.

 

At the public hearing, Sheriff Nelson told the House Committee, "I'm no mental health expert; I'm no substance abuse expert. I am a Sheriff that oversees a jail, and I'll tell you right now that's where we take care of those folks - is in our jail, and we do the best we can. We're fortunate in Deschutes County, where we are three-quarters of the way to having our crisis stabilization center/sober station become a reality." He added, "The whole point of a facility like this is to get those who want help, get them some help and have them be productive citizens of this community. We can't always save someone from themselves, but we're going to do the best job that we can. If you vote to support that immunity, that facility will become a reality and we'll see great things."

 

He told the committee about an inmate that used to spend time at the jail every month: "This particular inmate has not darkened our doorway of our Deschutes County Jail for 160 days. The inmate was afflicted with mental health issues and substance abuse issues. And, through this jail diversion program, this inmate sought services through his peers and we're able to keep him out of our facility. It's not only the right thing to do, but if you look at it strictly from dollars and cents, it's a savings to the taxpayer."

 

The House Committee on the Judiciary plans to hold a work session on the proposal, next week.

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