Sharp increase seen in mental health calls over past year

Benny Westcott

Calls for service to the Sweet Home Police Department from people suffering from mental health issues have gone up dramatically in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020.

In the first quarter of 2020, 31 calls were made to the police that Sweet Home officers deemed were from people with mental health issues were reported in the first quarter of 2020, while 120 such calls were reported in the first quarter of 2021.

“We’re trying to tackle the issue of our frequent flyers on mental health calls,” said Police Chief Jeff Lynn at the April 19 meeting of the Sweet Home Community Health Committee.

Lynn wrote in an April 23 report to the City Council that, in order to address the sharp increase in calls, “Community Service Officer Sean Morgan and I have been in contact with Linn County Mental Health. Our intent is to work with Linn County Mental Health on a regular basis (ideally weekly) and attempt some additional outreach and follow-up with certain individuals that we are having repeated contacts with.”

“Our increased engagement with Linn County Mental Health may also help us address the increase in calls involving individuals believed to be suicidal,” he went on. “The same type of follow-up may benefit those individuals as well.”

Lynn said he and Morgan recently had a meeting with Linn County Department of Health Services Crisis and Admissions Supervisor Justin Thomas that Lynn said was “fairly productive.”

“We’re trying to develop some plans to get a few more resources out here on a weekly basis to do some engagement and maybe some interaction, whether that’s through med deliveries or something else,” Lynn said.

In other meeting activity, committee member Larry Horton made some reports on the situation regarding Sweet Home’s homeless.

He said that CHANCE, an addiction treatment center in Albany, is currently providing transitional housing for Sweet Home’s homeless. They rented rooms in one of the local motels to be available to the homeless.

And one homeless man in Sweet Home is in transitional housing after being homeless for 25 years.

“That is a major success,” said Horton.

“This gentleman has not ever wanted to be anything other than what he’s been,” Horton said. “I’m not sure what has changed in his life, but I think that the camp that was set up at the Nazarene Church gave him a lot of support. And I think that the people that he met there gave him encouragement and helped him focus on a new life.”

The man will hopefully be moving into regular housing by June, Horton said, adding “This is just a transition that he’s staying in the hotel for now.”

“That is a success story that would not have happened if we hadn’t gotten involved,” Horton said to his fellow Community Health Committee members.

In other news, Horton said that Helping Hands is developing the Hope Center into some type of facility for the homeless.

“They’re still in the infancy stages of planning,” he said. “They don’t want to go public with everything that they are doing yet. But they have some fantastic ideas that they are looking at putting into place here in Sweet Home. If it all happens, it’s going to be a major difference for Sweet Home’s homeless.”