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County cash tides over Cascadia

The fate of Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, the linchpin of the region's mental health care system, may be decided next week by the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.

Cascadia got a temporary reprieve Thursday as the county and state agreed to give the troubled agency more than $1 million in 'accelerated payments' so it could issue payroll checks to its 1,200 employees.

Capital Pacific Bank froze Cascadia's accounts on Wednesday because the agency has been in default on a $2 million line of credit with the bank since January.

'We're aware of what this does to their cash position,' Mark Stevenson, chief executive officer of Capital Pacific Bank, told the Portland Tribune. 'But we have to protect our shareholders and our depositors.'

The bank offered to extend the line of credit if Cascadia's biggest sources of revenue - Multnomah County and the state of Oregon - were willing to guarantee the agency's debt.

For several weeks, the county and the state refused to bail out Cascadia. County Chairman Ted Wheeler dispatched a forensic auditor to scrutinize the agency's accounts. But ultimately, state and county officials decided they could not afford to let the agency collapse.

'Our No. 1 priority is to do whatever's necessary to keep services going,' said Wheeler's spokesman, Rhys Scholes.

Cascadia provides services to about 23,000 mentally ill clients across the state, offering crisis intervention, treatment, walk-in clinics, housing, counseling, case management, and outreach.

County officials have been scrambling to figure out how to serve the agency's vulnerable clients should the organization cease to function. 'If there's a plan, now is the time to roll it out,' said Sharon Gary-Smith, director of Consumer and Family Involvement at Cascadia. 'Clients are asking, 'What's going to happen to me?' and I need to have some honest answers.'

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