PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Multnomah County audit revealed that many people who need mental health services aren’t being enrolled in the proper programs.
“If I was an individual who possibly could benefit from one of these programs and I met the base criteria and it wasn’t offered to me, I would feel let down,” Multnomah County Auditor, Jennifer McGuirk said,
That audit released this month by McGuirk found from 2016 to 2018 roughly 700 people were civilly committed at least once in the county.
That means a judge found that person to be a danger to themselves or others and they were court-ordered to go to a psychiatric hospital or receive other treatment for up to 180 days.
The audit focused on two programs where people could receive treatment in the county, Choice, a state-funded care coordination program for people with serious and persistent mental illness and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT), an intensive team-based mental health treatment model.
The audit found access to Choice and ACT was limited for people who could potentially benefit from the services.
More than half of those roughly 700 people who were civilly committed were not enrolled in the Choice program, according to the audit.
Only about 20 percent of those were enrolled in ACT.
FOX 12 asked McGuirk if she feels based on the findings that the county is failing those with mental health issues.
“I’m not sure I would use the word failing, I feel like the county in this division has not been transparent about the choices they’re making,” McGuirk said.
The audit also found that the Choice program spent $1.4 million less than it received in state funding.
The audit shows the county planned to use that for transitional housing but McGuirk said that doesn’t solve immediate issues to help people right now.
Ebony Clark, the Director of Multnomah County’s Mental Health and Addiction Services Division, says the audit has her attention.
“I think that staff kind of get so narrowly focused on, you know, the specific levels of care that mandate that individuals receive Choice. Again, this is just an assumption this is one of those areas of continuous improvement that I want to explore that they may even be leaving out these other folks,” said Clark.
County officials tell us that $1.4 million in funding is used for urgent transitional housing, such as one-time-only rental assistance and motel stays.
They say division managers plan to meet before the end of the year to discuss how to use the rest of the funding.
Clark said, “I can assure the public and the consumers and the board and our funders that you know we will prioritize decisions, be specific around how we are being transparent.”
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