Right now, she’s working to get the Deschutes County Stabilization Center up and running, which just opened last week and serves people in the community who are experiencing a mental health crisis. The center, which is funded both by the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and Deschutes County Health Services meets one of the goals of the “defund the police” movement: It shifts money away from law enforcement and towards social services. Mental health professionals help the people in crisis instead of law enforcement officers bringing them to jail or the emergency room.
Harris says emergency mental health calls have not spiked as a result of the coronavirus lockdowns and the economic recession, but that they will likely increase later as the long-term consequences of social isolation and financial stress sink in. Our conversation focuses on the need to continue to decriminalize mental illness by providing strong social services and housing for those suffering from acute and debilitating disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia. Instead, right now many of them end up in jail for low-level offenses like trespassing.
We also explore the topics of School Resource Officers, the mobile crisis teams that support local law enforcement agencies and finally, the ongoing need to adequately fund mental health programs.
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