PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon is in the midst of a mental health crisis and it’s acute among young people. One of the state’s largest mental health providers is raising funds to help tackle the problem.

More than 1,000 Oregon children, families and adults get help with mental health issues through the Albertina Kerr nonprofit organization. More than 300 of those clients are kids in psychiatric crisis.

One survey found that in 2019, one in five 8th grade students in Oregon seriously considered taking their own life. The pandemic has only made things worse.

“They’re having significant problems either with depression, suicidal thinking — they may have made some gestures toward harming themselves,” said Chuck Haas, the director of children’s mental health services at Albertina Kerr.

Albertina Kerr has been around since 1907, helping children and adults in mental health crises and with developmental disabilities. But the organization is facing a staffing shortage: there aren’t enough qualified child and family therapists to go around.

“We’ve never been here before where we’ve had difficulty finding people to work for us,” said Haas.

Therapists are the first contact for families in crisis.

“It’s through that relationship that gets built that there’s the connection to other people on the team. It might be a skills trainer, it might be the psychiatrist,” said Sarah Abramovitz, a child and family therapist.

Albertina Kerr is making a special appeal this year. The organization is creating a fund to train more child and family therapists, increase their pay and give them the support they need to face the challenges of helping people, especially Oregon teens.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on the annual gala so Albertina Kerr is hoping their online auction of domestic and international travel experiences will jump-start the new fund. The online event is called “24 Hours of Kerr.”

“I think this fund is really important so that we can get more therapists in to support the families that are in need right now because there is such a big need,” said Kelli MacKay, clinical supervisor of children’s mental health services.

Albertina Kerr hopes to raise $340,000 over the next two years and $850,000 over the next five years. The online auction is active now and runs through 8 p.m. on Sept. 12.

A bid or donation could help save a young person’s life.