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Deschutes moves to speed mental health response

By Joe Burns
Published On: Jan 08 2013 08:26:28 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 08 2013 08:30:55 PM CST

A quicker assessment time for mental illness to help prevent tragedies is part of a plan the Deschutes County Health Department wants.

BEND, Ore. -

Could early, faster assessment of mental problems prevent tragedies like the shootings in Newtown or at the Aurora movie theater?

No one can say, of course. But that's part of a plan that the Deschutes County Healthy Department plans to address.

County commissioners agree. They're moving forward with the plan and creating a new position to speed up the assessment process.

So will it keep more troubled people off the streets and get them the help they need?

Those suffering with a mental illness usually make a call to health officials and get an assessment done in two weeks at best.

The county's new plan, a discussion topic before commissioners this week, calls for an assessment done within 24 or 48 hours.

"Being able to create a responsive team to get to someone and have an assessment done within 24 hours or 48 hours is really critical," Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney said Tuesday.

County health officials plan quicker response times to get the right level of service to those with mental health issues.

The plan includes adding a new supervisor to make that happen.

Baney says there are a myriad of reasons for those who suffer a mental health crisis, including the economic downturn to even the winter season with its longer periods of darkness.

"It can be a time of adjustment around the holidays," Baney said. "There are just a number of things that could present a significant mental health issue in someone's life, and for us to be there is what we want."

Baney says it's her hope that the county will offer some non-traditional hours in the future, since most problems don't arise on a 8 to 5 basis.

"Address some of the issues you are struggling with that could be at 6 at night, or that could be 7 in the morning," Baney said. "We want to be what our residents need and make sure we are responsive."

Baney told me it's in the budget to add that supervising position. The county is now just looking to fill it.

She also stressed that those who pose harm to themselves or others have and will always get an immediate response from county health workers.

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