SALEM, OR -- A new bill introduced Thursday in Salem would mandate that every county in Oregon create a mental health action plan. The proposal, from Representative Cheri Helt (R-Bend), lays out how various agencies should work together to reduce suicide rates, combat domestic violence and better address homelessness.
Helt tells KBND News addressing the state’s mental health crisis can only happen through collaboration, "We have our police departments, we have our school districts, we have our veterans outreach programs, we have our CCOs, we have our hospitals, we have our counties – and they all touch mental health. But, they touch it individually and I think if we bring them together, there’s much more power."
If passed, counties would need to submit a Community Mental Health Action Plan by 2021. Plans would be developed through working with local law enforcement, health care and tribal agencies, schools and other relevant agencies, and would need to include measurable goals to help all segments of the population. Helt says the idea draws on her school board experience, "We’ve had so many struggles with kids and mental health and, it’s been a topic that I’ve been passionate about. I don’t think our youth should have to struggle as much as they do. It’s really, really important that we work together and we get things done and move the needle for the people that need help in our state."
House Bill 2843 is the first created by the freshman lawmaker. It received a first reading on the House floor, Thursday, "That was really exciting to see the first read and it had, I think, the most collaboration on a bill that I’ve seen yet." She says it already has broad bi-partisan support with more than 30 co-sponsors, "I’m just really proud to introduce a bill with such bipartisan support in such polarized times."