National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI takes a stand on the proposed new jail.

My name is Caren Caldwell.  I live in Ashland.  I am a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, aka NAMI.  (A statement to the Ashland City Council on November 5, 2019.)

Our organization holds that incarceration is not an appropriate treatment for mental illness.  As Stacey Brubaker puts it, “Jail is not a trauma-informed space.”  NAMI’s Southern Oregon chapter has set three goals for dealing with the intersection of mental illness and community justice:

One, to divert those with mental illness from jail.

Two, for those who cannot be diverted, to ensure mental health services within the jail facility are adequate for people’s needs.

Three, for those released from the jail, to ensure that people receive continuity of care services so that they continue getting their needs met after jail.  

We at NAMI understand that the current Jackson County Jail facilities are inadequate to meet these goals. A modern facility would have the potential to expand mental health and addiction services, but only if adequate county funding is provided for those programs.  NAMI Southern Oregon would be able to support a new Jackson County Jail, IF the following three objectives are included in the proposal:

One, that Jackson County and our cities commit to a comprehensive program of diversion from jail for persons with serious and persistent mental illness, as well as other vulnerable populations such as homeless and substance-addicted persons, by providing appropriate diversion services.  Eugene’s successful CAHOOTS program – as described in the recent presentation in Medford – is an example.

Two, that the Sheriff’s Office and County Commission specify what portion of the Jail’s new operating budget will be dedicated to the delivery of mental health and addiction services within the jail.  “Detailed plans have not yet been drafted for the treatment and counseling services a new jail would provide” according to an October 13 editorial in the Mail Tribune.  We need confirmation that human services will be adequately funded for the jail population and service gaps will be filled.

Three, that mental health and substance use transition services be added to the New Jail proposal.   In particular, transitional housing and residential treatment, as well as service navigation, are the missing pieces of the human services picture in Jackson County that need to be increased.  Comprehensive continuity of care services are essential for stabilizing and aiding in recovery for our vulnerable populations, and for decreasing their risk of recidivism.

In summary, NAMI in Southern Oregon maintains that there is still only one way to effectively deal with mental illness:  that is, treatment.  Treatment services must be made available at all levels of our county’s community justice system.  We urge you to support the proposed levy only when diversion programs, adequately-funded in-jail mental health services, and a community-based transition program for those leaving jail are included in the county’s budget.