Tag Archives: Mental Health Association of Portland

Transgender clients faces unique challenges within health system

By Jenny Westberg, Contributing Columnist

In December 1973, a psychiatric breakthrough wiped out all signs and symptoms of mental illness for millions of Americans.

It wasn’t a new drug. It was an ex cathedra pronouncement by the American Psychiatric Association, declaring that homosexuality was not, in fact, a mental disorder. The change meant that more than 100,000 Oregonians went to bed one night with a diagnosable psychiatric problem and woke up the next morning with none at all.

Thirty-seven years later, however, being transgender — nothing more — is still enough for a psychiatric diagnosis, with a seven-page listing in the official diagnostic manual, the DSM-IV. Clinically, it’s called Gender Identity Disorder (GID). Continue reading

Navigating the inequities of mental health system

By Jenny Westberg, Contributing Columnist

Keaton Otis died on May 12. We know police shot at him 32 times. We know the other victim, Officer Christopher Burley, and we know he’ll survive. We know so much about a few moments. Now, thanks to the courage of Keaton’s parents, Felesia and Joseph Otis, we’ve heard about other moments in this bright, creative young man’s life — and the illness that may have led to his tragic death at only 25.

Keaton had a mood disorder. According to reports, a nurse practitioner consulted by the Otis family said he likely had schizoaffective disorder. And he needed help. But Keaton Otis wasn’t interested in getting treatment, and his parents were desperate. Instead he shut himself away from friends and family. He was convinced that people were plotting against him. He stopped eating and lost 50 pounds. Many families in our community have faced this situation. The U.S. Surgeon General reported one in five people have a diagnosable mental illness during the course of one year. We all know someone who’s dealing with mental illness or addiction. But what if it’s your son or daughter in crisis? Continue reading

You’ve stepped up to the plate, mayor; lets hit a home run

By Jenny Westberg

An Open Letter to Sam Adams:

Dear Sam,

Thank you for responding, finally, to our repeated calls to bring accountability to the Portland Police Bureau. It may have taken a couple of months, but you took our requests to heart.

We wrote and asked you to take a specific set of actions to address serious problems in the Portland Police Bureau. We directed your attention to an alarming number of tragic outcomes between police and people with mental illness. We noted a failure of police accountability that seemed to guarantee more tragedies in the future. Continue reading

Finding lost friends: A guide for connecting off the grid

By Jenny Westberg, Contributing Columnist

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, each year around 25 percent of adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness — more than 57 million of our friends and family members. For severe and persistent mental illness, the figure is still high: about 1 in 19, or 5 percent of everyone.

What do you do when a friend or loved one seems to drop off the grid? Continue reading

Denying life will only make you miserable

By Michael Hopcroft, Contributing Writer

Do you suffer from mental illness?”

“No, Doctor. I enjoy every minute of it!”

Of course, nobody really enjoys being mentally ill. But this very old joke illustrates something vital about coping with any disability: having a sense of humor about it, and about life in general, is vital if you are going to survive it.

Humor can be many things to a person with mental illness. Humor can be a refuge from self-doubt. It can be a safe way to interact with other people, especially friends. It can be reinforcement at times when the illness appears ready to overwhelm you. Humor makes life more livable. Continue reading

Memorial service set for Jack Dale Collins

Jack Dale Collins
Feb. 20, 1952 – March 22, 2010

Jack Dale Collins, 58, died after being shot by a Portland police officer. The officer involved in his death responded to ‘a call of an unwanted person at the Hoyt Arboretum who was yelling at people.’ The crime scene diagram shows an x-acto knife and four shell casings.  His death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. No criminal wrong doing was found by the grand jury who heard the case.

Jack, also known as Jackie or Old Man Jackie Collins, lived on the streets of Portland for over twenty years. He was known as a private man who was often on the move.  People who knew him for years still knew very little about his life. He was estranged from his family.  He was said to be a peaceful individual and to have significant survival skills. He experienced addiction and mental illness and at times engaged in self-harm by cutting.

Jack was liked by those who knew him. He seems to have conducted himself with some grace and dignity.  He got through by his habit of staying out of the way. His loss has been felt by many who recognize the injustice of his alienation, struggles, and passing. He is survived by family members in Texas.

A memorial will be held Monday May 17th 4pm at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 1131 SE Oak, Portland. All are welcome.

Donations may be made to the mental health or social-service charity of your choice.

Take the police out of crisis intervention business

From the current edition of Street Roots

Sam Adams, we have a very large problem on our hands.

It’s a practical problem for me, for every other medical professional in Portland, for leaders in the African-American community, the Hispanic community, and the disabilities community in general. For the mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and neighbors and employers and friends and lovers.

Who do I call in a crisis?

Because I can’t in good conscience say to call the police. That route, without extensive and public repairs, is washed out.  Even if you and I can rationalize about what happened to Aaron Campbell and to Jamal Green and to Lisa Coppock and Deontae Keller and Sir Millage and to Dickie Dow and to James Chasse and to James Perez and to Kendra James and to Jose Mejia Poot — if even together we can agree these bad outcomes are the exception and not the rule, our agreement is meaningless to the Marva Campbell who calls tonight. Continue reading

Matters of life or death

Mental health activist Jason Renaud weighs in on the latest shooting by police of unarmed citizens in crisis

By Israel Bayer
Staff Writer

Jason Renaud had been an advocate for the rights of people with addiction and mental illness for more than a decade when a 42-year-old named James Chasse was killed at the hands of police officers in 2006. Chasse, who lived with schizophrenia, had been a friend of Renaud’s, and Chasse’s death went beyond the personal tragedy. It brought Renaud’s work with the Mental Health Association of Portland, which he co-founded, into even greater focus toward addressing the actions and oversight of police officers, particularly as they interface with people experiencing mental illness. A police review found that the officers acted within policy. Chasse’s death is now the subject of a federal civil lawsuit brought by Chasse’s family.

Today, in the aftermath of the police shooting of Aaron Campbell and a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who shot him, Renaud is watching a familiar and tragic scenario repeat itself. Last year he declared his candicacy to run against Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman.

Police Chief Rosie Sizer has announced some changes in police policy as a result of Campbell’s death, including bringing mental health workers along on crisis calls, and buying ballistic shields to protect officers when approaching people.

But neither of those efforts address officers’ behavior, how they coordinate their approach to people in crisis and how they’re trained to deal with these situations to ensure that someone doesn’t end up dead.

Israel Bayer: So let’s start with training. With every shooting in the past, regardless of which talking head, the message has basically been, it’s about the training. If you want us to do something different, train us different. So…

Jason Renaud: My problem is that with the training right now is that once a weapon has been seen or reported by a police officer, it’s likely at that point that someone is going to get hurt. That means the officer is trained to take action prior to the weapon being actually produced. It’s alarming because in many cases it’s a preemptive strike.

Continue reading

Extra! Extra!

One minute it’s warm and sunny, the next it’s cold, foggy and grey. It’s tough to know what to wear these days. But you always know what to read! And starting tomorrow, you’ll have a fresh copy of Street Roots to keep your mind warm and toasty. Here’s what you’ll find inside:

Rings of Fire: Vancouver, B.C.’s street paper talks about how the Winter Olympics have reignited the homeless front to push back on gentrification and homelessness.

Matters of life or death: A frank discussion between Street Roots’ Israel Bayer and Jason Renaud, co-founder of the Mental Health Association of Portland and an ardent activist for people with mental illness. The two talk about the latest police shooting of an unarmed man in crisis.

Staying Alive: It might sound counterintuitive that a self-injection site for people with drug addictions can actually help people get off drugs, but it does. Learn more about the work of Insite in Vancouver, B.C., which is patterned after European models with great success.

Street Roots Annual Report: For those familiar with Street Roots and those new to the experience, the 2009 Annual Report packs a yearful of journalism, community involvement, resource development, advocacy and vendor accomplishments into four pages.

And speaking of vendors! Visit yours Friday morning, share a big smile and pick up the new copy of Street Roots. It’s a dollar well spent. Always has been.

Futility lies in trying to contain information in the 21st century

By Roy Silberstein, Contributing Columnist

Left unblamed by the city of Portland’s attorney James Rice in his petition to move Chasse vs. Humphreys is the nonprofit advocacy organization responsible for informing the community about what happened to James Chasse.

The Mental Health Association of Portland spoke out and often about the facts of what happened to James since the day of his death, Sept. 17, 2006. We’re responsible for Rice’s desperately irrational and unprecedented request of Federal Court Judge Garr King to move Chasse v. Humphreys out of state.

James was a person with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, a person with friends, a family and a rich spiritual life. And he was a person beaten to death by those who swore to protect and to serve. Continue reading

What happened to James Chasse?

Today marks the third anniversary of the death of James Chasse at the hands of the Portland Police Bureau. The Mental Health Association of Portland, who is spearheading a documentary about the case, asked City Hall today to release the facts on the Police Bureau’s internal report. The organization also released a 4-page report titled: What Happened to James Chasse?

Dear Mayor Adams, Commissioner Saltzman, Chief Sizer,

Today marks the third anniversary of the death of James Chasse.

Attached is a petition, signed by over 250 persons, which asks for the immediate release of the Portland Police Bureau’s internal investigation of what happened to James Chasse, and a report of the status of what happened to James, and what happened after James died, collected by our organization.
Three years ago we began to track the documents and news articles about what happened to James Chasse, and how those responsible responded to his death.  What was revealed is silence, delay and obfuscation can be somewhat countered by community concern and an obstinate online presence.

So with no budget for public relations we decided to simply tell the truth over and over and over to anyone who would listen.  We posted all publicly-available documents online. We posted all the photographs, videotapes and audio material we could find.  We posted and linked to every news story written about James Chasse.

We knew our concerns would be put off by City Hall, there would be no criminal trial, the officers responsible would not be disciplined, and every bureaucratic response would be clouded in budgetary constraints. We knew our cause – transparency – would lose at every opportunity, except in the court of public opinion.

We were determined to tell the truth and not to forget.

Because the truth is James is not the first person with mental illness to be hurt by police officers, but he could have been the last. We’ve created a report of these changes for you and attached it to this letter.  The report gives a short list of the positive accomplishments we see as directly related to James Chasse’s death, changes by the Portland Police Bureau, by the City of Portland, by Multnomah County and by the Oregon State legislature.

What the City and County have done is significant and today worth noting. Portland is a safer community because positive changes have occurred.

But important action remains undone. Releasing the internal investigation will illustrate why the process the Police Bureau used to determine whether something was wrong with how Kyle Nice, Christopher Humphreys and Bret Burton killed James Chasse failed to bring justice.

What the internal investigation withholds is the result of the police Use of Force Committee, which met months ago in secret.  The Committee found the three officers followed their training and broke no rules and concluded none of the officers used excessive force.

According to the findings of the Grand Jury and Attorney General, they broke no rules and an innocent man is dead.  That finding is unacceptable.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

As you enter negotiations for a new contract with the police union this fall, you must find the capacity for a chief to discipline and terminate officers regardless of civil litigation.  Impunity is a corrupting influence and must be addressed quickly, directly and publicly.

Roy Silberstein, President, Mental Health Association of Portland

James Chasse Status Report - September 2009(1)

James Chasse Status Report - September 2009(2)

James Chasse Status Report - September 2009(3)

James Chasse Status Report - September 2009(4)

Chasse case languishes alongside squandered progress

mhaplogo-1From the Sept. 4 edition of Street Roots.

As we approach the third anniversary of the death of James Chasse, there are several crucial questions still floating in legal and political limbo.

None is more vital than a long-overdue Portland Police Bureau internal investigative report on what happened to James Chasse.

We know some things, such as what happened to James: an innocent man, he was chased and attacked by three police officers who gave him a savage beating in front of dozens of witnesses. The officers then failed to inform the ambulance service of the beating, and who then, instead of taking him to a hospital, took the mortally wounded James on a meandering tour of town before eventually arriving at the downtown jail.

James died having suffered 16 broken ribs, a punctured lung, massive internal bleeding and 46 abrasions or contusions on his body, including six to the head and 19 strikes to the torso. Hogtied, in shrieking pain, he died a mere hour after his first contact with an officer. Continue reading

Mental Health Association of Portland new column in Street Roots: Compassion, good guidance, the bedrock of new center

mhaplogo-1From the August 7 edition of Street Roots.

On July 2 the Multnomah County Commission voted to fund and build a new facility to help persons who are acutely mentally ill.

In 2001, during a generational redesign of Multnomah County’s mental health system, a variety of providers, former patients, referring agencies, community members, and independent clinicians decided to close a similar facility — the Crisis Triage Center, or CTC.

The CTC was a 24-hour psychiatric clinic attached to Providence Hospital, which planned to provide immediate treatment for anyone. It specialized in being a third choice for police, the first two being doing nothing or making an arrest. The CTC started unpredictably and badly with the tragic death of Emily Comeaux, a person with needs beyond the comprehension of the CTC staff.

Prospective patients, sick and in crisis, who were coached to seek services at the CTC regularly waited hours before seeing a clinician. Sick children were kept in the same waiting room as adult patients. The cost of care was high and rising. Some patients and clinicians chronically overused the CTC, clogging the service for others.  Patients were put on psychiatric holds unnecessarily, given the wrong medicine, or complained their concerns were dismissed.

After some public debate and critical events, such as the death of Jose Mejia Poot, Providence Hospital and Multnomah County, both pointing fingers at each other, quit the contract and closed the CTC.

A re-design was proposed. The newly formed Cascadia would operate five walk in clinics which would be open 24 hours, staffed with able-bodied clinicians, and located in all five quadrants of the city. Anyone could walk in and get help in a few minutes. The costs would be lower because the clinics were uncoupled from a hospital.

The clinics opened with much media fanfare, but within a few weeks, bureaucrats were thinking of how to save money. If services could be reduced, costs could be cut. Cascadia closed one clinic after another, leaving eventually only one that was not open 24 hours, and services were only available to certain people.

The closure of the CTC added a hard-to-measure burden on a variety of services and individuals which had no coordinated way of comparing experience and recognizing an additional set of responsibilities. We’d estimate the cost of not having this service is in the tens of millions of dollars per year.

So we applaud that the county leadership recognizes this new facility is an important component of the continuum of county services. Continue reading

Mental health care funds left behind in the recovery

In February, Chris Bouneff got a phone call from a man whose wife has bipolar disorder. She had been managing it well with private health care, the caller said, but then the couple both lost their jobs, and their insurance was about to lapse. He wanted to know where else they could go for the mental health services his wife needed.

“He’s calling, saying, ‘What do I do?'” recounted Bouneff, who is the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Oregon branch. “What do you say to someone like that? ‘Sorry’?”

Continue reading