This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 28, 2006 11:13 AM. The previous post in this blog was Recycling Sunday's fairy tale. The next post in this blog is Nobody told Potter. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cogen, Frederick, and Chasse

You wouldn't know it from the mainstream media, but there's still a Multnomah County commissioner position up for grabs in the November election, and the runoff is between Jeff Cogen and Lew Frederick.

Back in the spring, when Diane Linn was still nominally in the running to stay on as county chair, this race had a different look from what it has now. Now it's clear that Ted Wheeler is going to be running the county board, and to me Cogen (left) looks just like Wheeler. More representation for the West Hills moneybag crowd. Plus, given how little I think of the performance of Cogen's former boss, Dan Saltzman, as a Portland city commissioner, it would be really hard for me to say I want him representing me on the county board.

Frederick does not come across as a real ball of fire as a candidate, either. He's not a highly skilled politician. But his supporters tell me that's one of the best reasons to vote for him. One writes:

I learn more about Lew's values and goals every time I hear him speak. He brings perspective and depth. He talks about issues like he cares about them, from the perspective of someone who actually knows from life experience rather than having just heard about social problems. Reading about high school dropouts in a report is one thing. Hosting a group for kids in your home every week for five years, one month per student group, is doing something about it. And it was doing the most he could, with the resources available to him. He hasn't been in a position to help run the Children's Fund, for example -- but he would do a great job if he were elected and helped oversee it, because he knows where and how the money can be spent best.

And since I've been volunteering with his campaign, I'm even more impressed. He's definitely not a showman despite his years on TV and as a spokesperson -- there, he was scripted, in real life he's thoughtful and has broad knowledge and experience that's difficult to can into 30-second soundbites. He listens and has conversations, even during the campaign, instead of giving pat responses.

I like what I'm reading here.

One issue that the two candidates ought to be talking about front and center these days is the county's rickety mental health service "system" (if it can be called that). Here in Portland, we just had the police kill an unarmed schizophrenic man, Jim Chasse, who was guilty of "looking strange," and the initial reaction from City Hall has been to deflect criticism of the police with, "We need to start a conversation about mental health."

The ensuing, deafening silence from Wheeler on this subject has been a disappointment, and we don't need the same from the new commissioner. There are still a few weeks before this one is decided. Let's hear what Cogen and Frederick have to say about Chasse and the larger issues raised by his death in Portland's "open air mental health treatment" program.

Comments (21)

I think Jack is precisely correct in saying city government hopes to "deflect criticism of the police" in the Chasse case by hoping to scapegoat the withered local "mental health system".

However, I've read nothing to suggest Chasse's chronic schizophrenia was untreated or the necessary reason for his beating and death while in police custody. His affliction doesn't mitigate what happened in the least.

This political bait and switch maneuver is a classic bureaucratic dodge, and it's disgraceful.

The state, the legislature, the counties, and the citizens of Oregon have methodically been getting out of the business of mental health care over the last 25 years. Services have reached the level of 18th century Europe. Slipping the Chasse issue into a mental health category is to cast it into the ozone.


Here is a bit of information about Jim Chasse posted in a local blog.

I appreciate you drawing some attention to our race, which has been largely ignored in the mainstream media. I know you're not a big fan of my boss, Dan Saltzman (and that's just something you and I are going to disagree about) but I'm hopeful that you and your readers will judge me on my own merits.

I've been actively involved in making progressive things happen in this community for 13 years. My wife and I ran a small business (Portland Pretzel Company) which was the first certified organic bakery in Portland. As Dan Saltzman's Chief of Staff I led the City's opposition to the Bush Administration's so-called USA Patriot Act; led the creation of the Children's Investment Fund and have been leading the project to make Portland the first city in the world to get all of its municipal electricity from renewable wind energy (and save money, to boot).

In the community, I served as Board President of Hands on Portland's board(check it out www.handsonportland.org) and when this amazing volunteer service organization almost went under during the recession I led the turnaround that saved it by putting together a merger with Volunteerworks, allowing us to serve more people for less money. I also helped lead the Business Outreach Program, which pairs emerging small businesses with PSU business students, and has created 450 jobs in N/NE Portland over the past 10 years, for less than half the cost of traditional Federal job creation programs.

With respect to Mental health issues, I've been advocating moving the County's mental health services to the health department. There are 3 reasons to do this: 1) one of the big problems we have with mental illness is the stigma attached to it, by dealing with mental illness in the Health Department we send the correct message: mental illness is a health issue, just like physical illness is; 2) unlike the County's mental health division, the Health Department has been generally well run and effective over the past 5 years; 3) the Health Department's clinic's have Federal designation which allows them to get matching fund from the Federal Government and billing mental health services through them should increase the amount of Federal money available here.

if you want to find out more, my website is www.jeffcogen.org


Fair enough.

Well, there already was a major city-wide conversation about public mental illness treatment in Multnomah County, from 2001 - 2004 with hundreds of meetings, hundreds of participants, expansive planning reports from pricey consultants, new leadership and then more new leadership.

The City did not participate except to send a single CIT officer (who was quite helpful).

At the end, the conversation leaders lacked the courage of their convictions, and when the County had a dip in revenue attention to details slipped away and the redesign of the public mental illness system in a large part failed to achieve many of its goals. Shifting the work to the Health Department was one of dozens of prospective solutions shot down by territorial politics.

What to do about mental illness is a key and complicated problem most prudent people flee from. Just wanting to be a county commissioner should qualify one for an examination.

But note WoodburnBob's point. Two wrongs don't make a right. The quality or quantity of Jim’s treatment is insignificant to the right or wrong of the brutality he experienced.

Before prematurely throwing Wheeler under the bus for (not) commenting on the mental health service system, with due respect, Wheeler ain't in charge yet. He's not on the payroll.

Diane Linn still is.

So any scolding is more accurately directed at Linn and her own deafening silence on defending (her own) mental health system?

She's still gettin' paid to do the job and Wheeler isn't.

With all these years of progressive hegemony in Portland and MultCo, I'm surprised things like mental health aren't just flying on autopilot.

Because liberals have so much more compassion than those wicked conservatives.

They have the compassion but not the funding, don't you see.

So it's your fault after all.

See how easily the blame shifting goes when you're so inured to it?

Talk about autopilot.

Wheeler ain't in charge yet.

To Ted's credit, I hear he's already working all the time on county business. I'd like to hear him sound off on this one.

Nobody's listening to Diane any more, are they?

I agree with Jeff about putting mental health treatment into the health department. But there is more involved. For example: I navigated that system with a family member, and coordinated case management is an issue. A family can find themselves explaining what is going on six or more different times before obtaining help for their family member. In other words, obtaining help with mental illness has to be simpler at the entry point, and we have to commit to some kind of long term follow-up in many cases.

And by the way, way too many of our mentally ill are cycling through the justice system, while we fail to give them treatment. It isn't that medical science doesn't know how to help these people. It's that we, as a community, have not committed the resources to do what it takes. This means that the families of the mentally ill ride a roller coaster from one episode to another.
Let us be clear that the issue of mental illness stretches deep into the fabric of our society. The deficit of support goes back to State disinvestment in hospital facilities, while making empty promises that community based care would replace it and be better. Maybe it would, if it were there. It has not materialized.

My recent visit to the Inverness Jail pointed out that 80% of the guys out there were struggling with addiction and/or mental illness, with two dorms/wards dedicated to those with mental illness. One of these is the only dorm/ward that has individual rooms, meaning that there is little to no room for the more dangerous people who should be in those cells. Despite the training and best effort of the corrections officers, their careers are based on working with a criminal system, not as mental health therapists.

Again, Jeff and I agree about the Health Department’s designation. I would add that because of the recent mental health parity legislation we should see greater attention from State government as well. To be successful we will need to understand the common impact the mental health struggles have on other counties in the state and coordinate the support needed to be effective in Multnomah County and across the state.

There is also a basic need for our community to understand how important our mentally ill neighbors and family members are to the fabric of our society, to understand the human cost, to them and to us all, of failing to help them. Doing well by them means we all do well. Communicating that will take an aggressive effort, one that I will take on.

I encourage you to take a look at my web site for other information about my campaign: http://www.Vote4lew.com

I look forward to further discussions on County issues.

(I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. Campaigning and family issues kept me away from the computer until early this morning.)

Lew Frederick

My vote for Lew came from talking with a very passionate young man this summer at a picnic. He is volunteering for the campaign, and anyone that can get a young person so excited about making a difference has my vote.

Reading the difference responses, Lew has "gotten his hands dirty" working through the system. The work he has done helping young people.

Contrast that with the "save the children" scam where the Jeff's boss' office where he is cheif of staff and Saltzman votes to skim off UR TIF tax dollars, which Saltzman is benefitting from with the Lovejoy Apartments tax abatements. This TIF funding that is bled off and not available to the County for Public health and Head Start programs for kids, and then giving voters the chance to tax themselves again and return a fraction of the funding bled off by TIF.

The Oregonian's endorsement of Jeff this morning is no surprise. But their main reason, that he wants to open the Wapato jail, is short-sighted. The County has finite resources. At this point, there is a clear choice between funding mental health services, and funding jail beds. I'm supporting Lew Frederick in part because he understands that not only is it more compassionate to prioritize mental health care, it's more cost-effective. He has the courage to take the politically risky position that promising to open the jail is not the best approach to addressing the cause of crime related to drug addiction.

I didn't endorse anyone in the primary campaign for this race. There were four good candidates, all of whom I knew somewhat. Over the course of the primary debates, listening to the answers to similar questions night after night, Lew was the candidate who most impressed me. One of the reasons is illustrated in the comments on this post on mental health care. Jeff's response is almost word-for-word the answer he gave at the City Club debate - the politician's answer, points 1-2-3. Easy to remember, sounds good. Lew adds several new insights in addition to his response at the City Club - case management issues, closure of long-term care facilities, details on the type of care available in the jail, and the need for coordination with other counties. Much more complex... because the issue IS complex, and as much as we want one, there ISN'T a 1-2-3 answer.

I want someone elected to represent North and Northeast Portland on the Multnomah County Commission who knows the district from having lived there for decades, and makes decisions based on deep understanding of the issues and their interconnectedness. I've sent money to other campaigns on issues I care about in this election, but Lew's is the one I'm giving my time to.


The circumstances surrounding the death of Jim Chasse were tragic - I look forward to hearing all the facts. What we can do right now is figure out how to prevent this from happening again given that there are an increasing number of people in our community like Jim Chasse who suffer from mental illness.

Let's start with some facts: here in Oregon, we have collectively defunded mental health services at the state level. As a result, local governments, county governments in particular, are trying to pick up the slack with fewer available dollars. Too many people are falling through the cracks, including many who could lead stable, independent lives if they could receive even basic treatment.

As a result, we are seeing more people with un- or under-treated mental illness among the ranks fo the homeless and coming into contact with law enforcement agencies, particularly in urban areas like Portland. Nearly 65% of Multnomah County's inmates suffer from mental illness, and approximately 15% have "serious" mental illness. Mentally ill defendants in Multnomah County are more likely to serve multiple incarcerations, and are likely to stay in jail longer. This does nothing to help them (if they are not treated) and it won't significantly reduce crime over the long run.

To find possible solutions to these problems, I have met with County mental health providers, mental health clients of Multnomah County, and visited the jails. The delivery of mental health services in our community is too fragmented and needs to be better coordinated. The County needs to better align its own health, mental health, and addiction services to meet the needs of our clients and improve their outcomes. We need to find better ways to treat the mentally ill who end up in our jail system so that they can reconnect with the community when they are released.

I welcome your thoughts and input on this important community issue.

Why is this always coming back to the 'failure of the mental health system' in Oregon? This is about Police Officers kicking a citizen to death. It's their psychological profile I am concerned about not James Chaases'. So has any one heard yet if the Grand Jury is going to let these guys walk?

Tom - Jack asked in his original post about the "larger issues" raised by this incident. (I can't speak to the Chasse incident because I want to wait for the facts.) But many of us see a clear link between people on the streets of Portland suffering from mental illness and decreased state support for mental health services. But that's not an excuse to do nothing - there are things we can do (and are doing) at the local level with the resources we have to improve outcomes for people with mental illness.

Yeah, well for me cops kicking a citizen to death in broad daylight in front of witnesses because they know that Mike Schrunk and their Union will protect them is a pretty big issue for someone who lives and works in Portland. Lets hear a little outrage over that.

Maybe the County could sell Wapato to a mental health care provider that would provide free services to the mentally ill over the next 40-50 years?

They would have to be able to sub-let a portion of the facility to a paying renter in order to cover their expenses. I would guess that INS (or a private prison operator) would pay top dollar for a facility that was already sited, EIR'd, anti-NIMBY'd, and move-in ready. Or the County could sell it to a private prison operator and recoup their dead money, and make a tidy profit. I wouldn't be surprised if it sold for more than a $100 million with the right covenants and a pre-buy of bed space by State and municipal governments.

Alternately, how about turning the Memorial Colliseum into a 24/7 mental health/homeless shelter. If you let Sten run it, then maybe he won't run for Mayor using my tax dollars.

Using Wapato for treatment for people with mental illnesses is an often-repeated misconception that needs to be eliminated as a viable option. Three reasons:

1. The building was constructed as an incarceration facility, with cells, concrete walls and limited social areas. Retrofitting it for use as a health care/treatment facility would be very expensive.

2. Large institutionals are not the best setting for people with mental illnesses or drug/alcohol addictions, if the goal is to help them get well.

3. The County currently doesn't have enough money to provide treatment for addiction/mental health care/long-term residential needs, any more than they have enough to provide staff for the jail. Changing the use wouldn't increase the budget for staff and operations as if by magic.

The original Wapato building design incorporated a 325 bed treatment program area, but that was changed during construction when it became clear there wouldn't be any money to provide treatment services. So it was built like a jail, looks like a jail, and is designed to treat people who are in jail. Think about it, if you had a mental illness, would you be able to relax and get well in a building designed as a jail?

Living on the street isn't a place where people with mental illnesses can relax and get better either, but I see your point. I did some research a few years ago on my Grandfather who no one in the family would talk about which of course intrigued me all the more. I did some searching in the state archives and found out that back in the 20's he had a mental breakdown and was sent to the State Mental Hospital for an evaluation. His commitment hearing lasted less then an hour initiated by a Sheriff in Clackamas County, he was examined by a medical doctor and sent to Salem where he spent the next two years until they determined he was insane and sent him to the asylum in Pendleton (now a prison). He remained there until the 1950's when he was finally 'paroled' and died within a few years of his release. Even though he lived close to his family he refused to talk to any of them. Before being committed he had worked as a cabinet maker and supported his family and a few months before his commitment he had become a U.S. citizen. My Grandfathers incarceration ruined his life and left my grandmother to raise 4 children on her own at the beginning of the great depression. I have yet to find any evidence he ever committed any type of crime but he was imprisoned pretty much for life. Once in the system he was simply forgotten by the state and his family. The old Asylum system in Oregon incarcerated a lot of people who never committed a crime and were denied their rights with no legal recourse. In Oregon well up in to the 50's many of them were sterilized. It would be beneficial to everyone if we could only find some happy medium between these two extremes.

Amanda: the (limited) sources of public information available on Wapato say nothing about losing the 325 treatment beds. Can you provide a source, or more information?

Bill Stewart's April 07, 2006 article in the Oregonian ("Clark County gives Wapato jail look-see but not lease signature")

Wapato Correctional Facility, named for a potatolike root vegetable once grown by Native Americans on Sauvie Island, was completed in 2004 at a cost of $59 million and immediately locked.

The jail includes three 75-prisoner dorms that are two stories high. The rest of the jail's 525 beds are in 50-person pods, many of which were designed for secure treatment of prisoners with alcohol and drug problems. Each dorm is self-contained, with a recreation area, a program room for counseling, and an outdoor area.

If it can't be adapted for mental health, then how about a place to incacerate meth addicts while they dry out? It must be at least as nice as the Bus Mall.

As long as Lolenzo Poe is in charge of mental health, the county mental health dept will be a failure. He has to be removed. That's a fact mental health professionals in the know would tell you if they could.

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