Background on the Closure of Portland’s Sobering Center
In the tumultuous year of 2019, Portland faced the disheartening closure of its much-needed sobering and detox center. This development left city and county officials grappling with the daunting challenge of identifying a fitting replacement.
The Behavioral Health Emergency Coordination Network (BHECN)
To address this pressing issue, a collaborative effort known as the Behavioral Health Emergency Coordination Network (BHECN) was established. It brought together a diverse group of leaders, including top city administrators, county representatives, and dedicated local nonprofit professionals.
A Change in Direction
Recent developments within the BHECN initiative have signified a significant shift. The committee responsible for its oversight has disbanded, marking a transition from the planning phase to the actual implementation of their vision.
The New Proposal
What truly caught many stakeholders by surprise was the altered nature of the proposed replacement center. Instead of a facility primarily designed as a “law enforcement drop-off site,” the new plan envisions a “20-bed, 24/7 intensive recovery-oriented residential center.”
A Shift in Responsibility
This revised facility’s core objective is to prioritize referrals from healthcare providers, with key players such as Providence, Unity, and withdrawal management services taking precedence. This adjustment is a clear departure from the previous model, where law enforcement played a pivotal role in the drop-off process.
Hospitals as the Front Door
In essence, the new center is not intended to serve as a point where law enforcement can bring individuals incapacitated by drugs or alcohol. Instead, it reinforces hospitals as the primary entry point for individuals in crisis situations.
Challenges and Criticisms
Although Unity and Providence have made commitments to augment the number of sobering beds available, this strategy has encountered its share of challenges. Hospital systems have resorted to legal action against the state, citing insufficient mental health treatment facilities that have left their emergency rooms overwhelmed.
Intriguingly, there is a divergence of opinions among county leaders. Some perceive this shift as a critical stride in addressing behavioral health crises comprehensively, while others view it as a significant setback.
Funding and Decision-Making
The crucial question of funding for this new center revolves around regional government Metro’s supportive housing services tax. Intense deliberations are ongoing among county leaders as they navigate the intricate terrain of how to allocate these funds most effectively.
The Decision Ahead
In the imminent future, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners stands poised to make a decision of profound consequence. As they convene to deliberate on the allocation of these funds, they face the weight of various viewpoints, priorities, and responsibilities.