The fact is, Multnomah County contains the biggest population of all counties in Oregon, and with that it is important to provide adequate health care to all residents.

CONTRIBUTED - Cassidy ChristopherWhile Oregon leads the nation in several progressive matters such as reproductive health rights and an equitable minimum wage, the state utterly fails to provide community members who struggle with mental health issues with the appropriate resources.

Because the state of Oregon has failed to implement statewide policies that provide adequate mental health services, it seems fit to bring the issue down to a more local level. This level is Multnomah County.

The fact is, Multnomah County contains the biggest population of all counties in Oregon, and with that it is important to provide adequate health care to all residents. Mental health care is very complex, as it requires intensive research and funding to implement policies and resources that will make access more accessible and effective. For these reasons, a systematic analysis of Multnomah County's mental health care services is long due, in the hopes that it will lead to more progressive change for our state.

Currently, Multnomah County District 1 Commissioner Sharon Meieran is spearheading the research campaign and is trying to gather support from her fellow commissioners, as well as the public and other key decision-makers such as mental health facilities and hospitals.

To gain momentum for this analysis, Meieran is asking that those who have been affected, for good or bad, by Multnomah County's mental health care system in some way, to share their stories. Gathering stories and hearing the voices of community members in this urban county is the best way for decision-makers to understand the discrepancies in the system.

The proposed research analysis is a partnership between Multnomah County and the Human Services Research Institute. Funding is critical to this operation, as this analysis will help the county and the institute understand areas where we can make meaningful change in our mental health care in Multnomah County.

The project is not only a partnership, it is a collaboration between these government agencies and the very people that we care about who suffer from mental health issues.

While research already is being done, continuing to support and advocate for the cause is critical to sustaining momentum. Some of the statistics that have surfaced in the past couple years have noted that while Oregon has one of the highest rates of mental illness, it has one of the lowest numbers of psychiatrists.

As for the psychiatrists who are in Oregon, most of them are so fully booked that there is no room for new patients. This leaves thousands of people without the medical attention that their health conditions require. Some studies note that the lack of trained mental health professionals in Oregon can be attributed to low salaries in comparison to the high costs of living in Oregon, especially Multnomah County.

We need to figure out why Oregon is so behind in mental health in this country, and we need to figure it out soon. Do we need more social workers in hospitals? Do we implement higher salaries for mental health workers? Should we strive to open more facilities?

The only way to persuade elected officials to enact new policies that will change our poor mental health care system is to analyze what we already have. The fact that Oregon ranks 49th in the nation is not just about making the state a better place to live. It is a matter of life or death.

Cassidy Christopher is a senior social work and Spanish student at the University of Portland. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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