Oregon Legislature Falls Short Of ‘Game-Changing’ Mental Health Investment

By Chris Lehman

This year in the Oregon legislature, there was a big push to dramatically boost funding for mental health programs. The effort was spurred on by mass shootings in Connecticut and Oregon. But mental health advocates say in the end, the legislature fell far short of the game-changer they hoped for.

After last December's mass shootings in Newtown and the Clackamas Town Center, Democrats and Republicans found bipartisan agreement on the need for more mental health funding. Oregon lawmakers considered a measure that would have dramatically expanded the state's mental health services. But the parties couldn't agree on a source of funding. That failure was heart-breaking for Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney. The long-time advocate for the mentally ill had lobbied for what he called a “game changing investment.”

Peter Courtney: "I just gotta keep fighting harder, I guess. I gotta get better. I gotta work harder. It's very, very sad. It's right where I knew it would end up. We're not dedicating any money to it, which means we're never going to fully fund it."

The legislature did boost funding for some mental health programs targeting youth. Lawmakers also approved more money to build a new psychiatric hospital near Junction City, though not all mental health advocates think that's a wise investment.

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