PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — At a meeting of the Buckman Neighborhood Association, Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran said the county has multiple crises that are getting worse in part because the network of services available doesn’t effectively coordinate.
Meieran, who is also an ER doctor, said the county has an array of homeless and behavioral health services that don’t coordinate and they’re seeing an increase in those with severe mental illness or drug addiction.
“We have great people doing great work but there’s not the coordination that’s needed to make an effective functional system, so we need to be putting some efforts in there,” she said.
“People are experiencing serious issues. There’s nowhere for them to go and they cannot sustain housing as we traditionally think of it,” Meieran told the meeting. “So more and more people are outside living with these severe conditions. And they are increasingly becoming the majority of our unsheltered houseless population.”
The problems are compounded by meth, which she said has become a horrifically bad actor in the community causing devastating problems.
“It causes psychosis. It causes criminal behavior and violence. It can be permanent or long-term,” she said.
The commissioner said the county is trying to fill in “major gaps” with facilities like the Behavioral Health Resource Center in downtown Portland. It’s a place for people to go to avoid falling into crisis.
But again she admitted the system needs work — and directly said it’s not a functional system.
Another problem she pointed out is that people working in behavioral health are leaving their jobs.
“One of the biggest challenges is people doing this work especially over the past two years have always been sort of underpaid, traumatized by the work they do,” Meieran said. “They can make more at McDonald’s than doing this difficult, difficult work. And I think they’ve finally decided why are we even doing this. And so we’ve had an exodus of the workforce that we need now more than ever for our shelters for our mental health care.”