According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Oregon ranks 5th in the country with the highest rates of mental health issues. But after years of brainstorming ideas, Lane County wants to do something about it. The county is planning to create a 29,000-square-foot mental health stabilization center. 

“We have a lot of great first responders. We have CAHOOTS, who the police can turn to help de-escalate a situation and help get a person the services they need, but what we don’t have is that ‘in-between,’” explains Jason Davis with Lane County Public Health. 

That “in-between” is the new mental health stabilization center. The facility will be open 24/7 and designed to help people to de-escalate and stabilize, regardless of insurance.

“They would receive an initial assessment. From there, we can help stabilize them with the resources on campus,” Davis explains. “And then, from that point, we can triage them to the next steps of their journey. For some people, that might mean establishing a relationship with a regular provider or counselor. For other people, it might mean medication.”

The behavioral health center comes with a 19 million dollar price tag. Davis reported Thursday that the project is still seeking alternate funding sources but has 42% of the initial capital covered. 

This new mental health center will provide a place to go, rather than just the emergency room - where the appropriate services can be limited. 

Alicia Beamer is the Chief Administrative Officer at Sacred Heart PeaceHealth, Sacred Heart University District and Cottage Grove Community Medical Center, who hopes this new facility will help address the state’s prolonged mental health crisis.

 “The stabilization center has the potential to connect individuals to services in real-time that we certainly just simply cannot do in the emergency department,” Beamer said. “There is an opportunity to connect patients to services that will ensure their health, safety and overall well-being. It also could help decompress our emergency departments and thus, especially as we’re seeing right now, promote better throughput for members seeking emergency medical care in our community.” 

Capt. Clint Riley, Lane County Jail Commander with the Sheriff’s Department, said the new facility would help stop crime at the source. 

“Many people find themselves in our system suffering from mental health disorders, drug addiction and alcoholism. Those three things often drive someone to that’s what the crime is related to,” Riley said. “The jail environment is not a therapeutic environment for someone with a mental health crisis or going through alcohol and drug withdrawals. The stabilization center will give a more permanent solution to folks in these crises and get them the help they need.” 

Davis says the stabilization center’s location is still undecided; however, it must meet specific criteria. One of which is it has to be within 30 minutes of 90 percent of the population of Lane County. 

“For folks being worried about this potentially being in their neighborhood or potentially being downtown or wherever it is,” Davis says, “rest assured this model is exactly the opposite of what’s happening right now. Which is, all of this being adjudicated and being out in our streets. And feeling what happens when we don’t address crisis situations.”

Davis says the mental health center will require a 29,000-square-foot building, which will serve up to 42 individuals at a time. The center will provide services to children and adults with no questions asked. The goal is to open the stabilization center in 2025.

Now, Davis says the county is gearing up for public input. “So we will be doing a bunch of different forums, listening sessions and meetings. 

Typically when we do community engagement, we reach out to neighborhood associations because that is a nice place where people can have input on what happens in their neighborhood,” Davis said. 

Plans and detailed information on the behavioral health center are available at https://www.lcstabilizationcenter.com/