By editorial board • 

Editorial: Respite center can fill needed gap in improving public care

The future of America’s national health care system is very much undecided. But we continue to make foundational progress in how community care is delivered to the publicly insured population in Oregon.

While it’s still young, Oregon’s coordinated care model, in which collaborative private-public partnerships aim to maximize primary preventive care, has been delivering promising results. It’s a broad, community-wide processes meant to ensure a healthier population.

At the tertiary care level, progressive programs are also being developed. One manifestation is the behavioral crisis respite center now up for consideration in Yamhill County. This type of facility is greatly needed, even if we can’t currently justify the full scope, as originally hoped.

County Health and Human Services Director Silas Halloran-Steiner told commissioners last week he’s scaling back plans due to the uncertainty of policy at the federal level. That means the proposed center would not be able to serve involuntary patients.

Such a facility remains a longterm goal for Halloran-Steiner. In the meantime, he is proposing to collaborate with a private partner on a six-bed residential treatment facility serving patients who recognize they need help.

The center would provide short-term psychiatric relief for anyone seeking it voluntarily. The emphasis would be on peer support, reducing staff needs.

Ideally, the center would ease some of the high-cost episodes that end up on the taxpayers tab. By investing in the type of respite center, the county can shorten the length of Emergency Room stays for publicly insured people undergoing a mental health crisis, and divert traffic from the state hospital and county jail.

Without a secured element, the center will cater more to patients with solid family and peer support — a segment now on the rise, thanks to the state’s investment into coordinated care.

Halloran-Steiner said inclusion of family members and peers with first-hand experience is central in mental health recovery. The model has been used in substance abuse recovery for years, and is now being heralded in mental illness treatment as well.

Once in a bed at the respite center, a patient can consider all the local resources. Hopefully, he will accept a plan for support and care moving forward.

There’s no concrete playbook for handling mental crises. The center aims to provide better individualized care with improved outcomes. It also promises to cut the cost to taxpayers.

That’s a win-win everyone should be able to support.

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