Oregon DA Forum Addresses Mental Health, Criminal Justice Intersection

Posted on June 6, 2019

Salem — Prosecutors from sixteen Oregon counties gathered on May 30 to learn and discuss changing laws and issues around the intersection between mental health and criminal justice. It was the first forum of its kind in the state.

District Attorneys and Deputy District Attorneys from various communities participated in the forum, held at The Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) in Salem.

The topic of mental health and criminal justice has become increasingly important statewide, according to professionals who participated in the forum.

The forum was developed through a partnership among Columbia County District Attorney Jeff Auxier; Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson; Marion County Deputy District Attorney Melissa Allison; the Oregon Center on Behavioral Health and Justice Integration (OCBHJI), a division within Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, Inc. (GOBHI); and the Crisis Intervention Team Center of Excellence (CITCOE), a collaboration between OCBHJI and DPSST.

Guest speakers from Klamath Basin Behavioral Health, Washington County Behavioral Health, Northwest Forensic Institute, and the Oregon State Hospital presented and answered questions. Topics included community restoration for people who are not legally fit to participate in their own defense, certified forensic evaluations, and new legislative changes regarding this population.

Prosecutors also shared ideas regarding handling of cases, interpretations of law, and how prosecutors can protect public safety while having a positive impact on those who experience serious mental health concerns — as well as Oregon’s communities at large. Prosecutors from Clackamas, Columbia, Coos, Deschutes, Gilliam, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Union, Washington, and Yamhill Counties contributed to the forum.

This opportunity for prosecutors to gather, discuss, and learn from one another was the first such event facilitated by OCBHJI, GOBHI, and CITCOE.

Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson commented, “As District Attorneys, we have an obligation to be leaders in all areas of public safety. Ensuring that those with behavioral health issues are treated fairly in the criminal justice system is essential for our communities. This forum has been a great way for us to collaborate toward that goal.”

OCBHJI Behavioral Health Justice Manager Chris Thomas added, “The Oregon Center of Behavioral Health and Justice Integration and GOBHI were honored to collaborate with our criminal justice partners to facilitate this forum. The intersection between behavioral health and criminal justice is not just a public safety problem, nor just a behavioral health problem, it is our challenge to meet as partners to promote fairness and engage people in treatment, while supporting public safety and fiscal responsibility. We are thrilled to help facilitate the conversation and promote problem solving.”

Marion County Deputy District Attorney Melissa Allison looked towards future collaboration, stating, “It’s clear that District Attorneys are engaged in this topic and are looking for ways to better address mental illness in the Public Safety system. We are already working to put together our next Forum on Mental Health for 2020.”


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