In May 2013, when Lane County was attempting to pass a jail levy — a tax to increase the number of open beds at the Lane County Jail — the focus was on incarceration. Criminals were being released due to a lack of capacity, proponents said.
Opponents to the levy pointed out that jail beds don’t stop the revolving door of drug abuse or mental health issues that often land people in jail. The levy passed, and three years later it was so successful in raising funds that the budget committee has voted to reduce the tax.
But that’s not the only story about the proposed 2016-2017 Lane County budget, county administrator Steve Mokrohisky says. Lane County has cut 22 funded but vacant positions and is working to decrease its deficit, but it also has added a new mental health crisis service.
Mokrohisky says the new budget moves the focus away from “what we don’t have” to solutions. Drawing upon the book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, Mokrohisky says scarcity — such as Lane County’s longtime lack of Secure Rural Schools funds and timber money — can create greater focus and efficiency, or it can distract from broader opportunities. So he says in the new budget, as part of the public safety system, Lane County is moving toward breaking the cycle of crime.
The new Hourglass Community Crisis Center on Centennial Loop is a free 24-hour center for mental health crisis assessment and stabilization. Hourglass is operated by the nonprofit Columbia Care Services.
Mokrohisky tells EW that while the new crisis center doesn’t stop the problem, it is a “move in the right direction” and it has shifted the conversation to how to connect people to needed services.
Program Administrator Randy Anderson says, “We have what’s termed a 23-hour program,” geared toward mental health crisis, staffed with qualified mental health professionals and peer support. Anderson says someone might come to Hourglass via an organization such as CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) or the jail.
Eugene and Springfield police as well as Lane County law enforcement can all send people to Hourglass. He gives the example of someone who EPD might run into who doesn’t need to be arrested or doesn’t rise to the level of a danger to themselves or others, or someone leaving the jail who doesn’t have an exit plan. Hourglass also welcomes walk-ins by people who need it, or calls from those in a mental health crisis or their friends or families.
Hourglass is not a residential program, Anderson clarifies, though if someone comes in with a need for sleep as part of her crisis, then a bed is available. Hourglass also provides footbaths and laundry, and it hopes to have shower facilities in the near future, he says.
Anderson says the crisis center has six or seven spots open at a time and offers a “low-stimulation and peaceful environment for individuals so they are able to relax and focus” and then helps people connect to needed community services.
For more information or to get help from Hourglass, call 541-505-8426 or go to columbiacare.org/hourglass-community-crisis-center.html.