DHS news release
March 1, 2005
Contact: Jim Sellers (503) 945-5738
Program contact: Keith Breswick (503) 945-7819
State signs contract for mental-health services in Umatilla County
As a result of Umatilla County Commissioners' decision to turn over community mental health services to the state, the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) has signed a four-year contract with a private nonprofit organization to deliver services beginning April 1.
The new contract is with Lifeways, an Ontario-based nonprofit behavioral health services provider that for the past seven years has delivered mental health services in Malheur County.
Malheur is one of 15 Oregon counties where commissioners contract with a private nonprofit to deliver mental health services.
"Lifeways has an excellent record of delivering high-quality services and I'm confident they will strengthen mental health services for people in Umatilla County," said Bob Nikkel, administrator of the DHS Office of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Lifeways will provide mental health and crisis services for adults, children and families, Nikkel said, while Umatilla county government will continue to provide developmental disabilities services and alcohol and other drug treatment.
Umatilla County Commissioners turned to the state after being unable to meet the state's required level of mental health services to ensure client health and safety. Nikkel said he believes the Lifeways contract will result in more services for children and teens as well as giving people at risk of hospitalization more alternatives such as greater access to medications, residential treatment and respite care.
He said the 39 people employed by the Umatilla County mental health department have rights to transfer to Lifeways. Mental health clients will experience no interruption of services and can expect to continue seeing the same case manager or therapist, he said.
Lifeways' executive director, Greg Schneider, said local residents would be alerted to changes such as phone numbers or locations through the news media, community meetings, fliers, and advocacy and peer-support groups.
Schneider has told DHS that Umatilla County residents can look for Lifeways to develop or enhance crisis and respite care, adult foster care, an adult treatment facility, a client drop-in center, peer counseling and outreach-oriented case management for people with mental illness.
"I appreciate that the county commissioners have taken a potentially contentious situation and worked collaboratively with the state to accommodate the needs of Umatilla County residents," Nikkel said.