PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When someone is in crisis, who do you call? Really, what’s the number? Do you know it off the top of your head? The number is — in the middle of this article.
Cascadia’s Crisis Team runs 24/7 in Multnomah County and responds to mental health crises both when weapons are and are not involved.
If no weapons are involved, they go on their own. But if there are weapons, they opt to coordinate with PPB to be on-scene as a backup.
“We definitely hear the community saying they don’t want law enforcement responding to people in mental health crisis. And again, we agree that if we can do that response safely without law enforcement, then that is absolutely what we’re going to do,” said Barbara Snow, the clinical director of crisis services at Cascadia.
“I worked a shift yesterday. I went on 5 different calls. I didn’t have law enforcement with me on any of those calls. On the flip side we are taking them when we might need to take them or when they’re going anyway,” she told KOIN 6 News. “So, when someone calls 911 and is getting law enforcement, we would rather be there with them to help provide that behavioral health response than have law enforcement going without a behavioral health clinician.”
The clinicians with Cascadia’s Crisis Team are all highly trained and all have master’s degrees in social sciences. Beyond that, Multnomah County requires them to go through extra training that really helps them assess for someone who is in immediate danger of hurting themselves or others within the next 12 hours.
When the clinicians respond to a scene, they bring a backpack full of mental health resources and medical care — plus basics like water and snacks.
“So we try in every way possible say that we’re non-threatening and we do really want to help,” said Jackie Thomson, the Program Manager of Project Respond. “And sometimes snacks and water are the best thing for that, right? In the immediate moment, especially when it’s been really hot outside, ‘Can I give you a bottle of water? And can we talk about what’s going on?’ So it can be really basic resources all the way up into referrals into outpatient mental health care.”
The crisis team has a sub team that works specifically in homeless shelters within Multnomah County. They’re adamant about understanding those sytems and their street outreach team also works to connect with people on the street, sending referrals on a proactive basis.
It’s about meeting people where they are and starting to build trust and recognition that the crisis team comes from a place of compassion. Sometimes it takes multiple follow ups to get someone into care. While that approach can be much more time consuming it is often less traumatizing for the individual.
Cascadia wants to hire more clinicians — so if you’re qualified and looking to serve, they hope you consider becoming part of the change.