National data indicates that 4.1 percent of Americans are suffering from mental illness. In Oregon that number is even higher, with 4.8 percent of our population battling a severe and ongoing mental illness. Moreover, Oregon is rated 49th in the nation when it comes to treating and providing services for people with mental health conditions. Rising to address this prominent issue are Oregon Sheriffs, filling a gap within the system to ensure everyone is safe.
Although sheriffs are not mandated or responsible for addressing mental health, the severity of this issue has prompted sheriff’s offices to creatively develop solutions that will serve people battling mental health conditions within your community. Many sheriffs have partnered with mental health clinicians to train deputies on mental health response and create mental health threat assessment teams. It’s not uncommon for sheriff’s offices to receive numerous mental health-related calls, and these teams – comprised of a trained deputy and mental health clinician – quickly respond to calls, treating the individual, connecting them with services and conducting follow-up to ensure the individual is stable.
As managers and operators of Oregon jails, sheriffs are instituting mental health and addiction treatment programs to treat inmates and prevent them from committing additional offenses when released. Across the state, these programs have treated thousands of inmates and have led to significantly lower recidivism rates. Additionally, these programs have allowed individuals to more easily reintegrate into society, find a job and lead productive lives.
Sheriffs are also addressing mental health among youths, particularly in school settings. A recent report conducted by the Oregon Health Authority found that suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10 to 24 years in Oregon. Increased bullying and harassment through both physical and online platforms can play a large role in a student’s overall mental health. Oregon sheriffs and their deputies are addressing this issue through education in schools, institution of a statewide tip line, collaboration with school districts and other stakeholders, and development of programs that help provide students with the resources they need to prevent self-harm.
If you have a family member or friend who has been affected by a mental health condition or addiction, you understand the need for our leaders to step up and develop actionable, comprehensive approaches to address Oregon’s mental health crisis. Join OSSA and support your sheriff as they tackle mental health in our communities, our jails and our schools.