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Conversations focused on education in Vernonia, behavioral health and housing and homelessness in St. Helens
St. Helens, OR—Today, Governor Tina Kotek visited communities in Columbia County on the third stop of her One Oregon Listening Tour.

Governor Kotek participated in three community conversations on the topics of education, mental health and recovery, and housing and homelessness.

“I heard from some of our youngest Oregonians who care about each other and their future,” Governor Kotek said. “It puts a fine point on the need to invest in our children’s education so they have the chance to thrive. I was also impressed by the community service providers working hard to help their neighbors despite resource challenges and a large service area. They make up for those challenges through strong relationships across the community and their incredible ingenuity.”

The day started at Vernonia Elementary School where Governor Kotek met with first graders, read the picture book “Be Kind,” and discussed the importance of reading and kindness with the students. She also met with and took questions from a fourth-grade class about the work the governor does, ways she can help, and more.

Governor Kotek then led a roundtable discussion with school administrators and teachers. The discussion centered on efforts she is making to fund summer education and enrichment programs, with a focus on improving childhood literacy, and the increased mental health challenges facing students.

The Governor then visited St. Helens and toured Columbia Community Mental Health (CCMH), including a crisis stabilization center being developed on the organization’s campus. CCMH offers holistic wrap-around services from crisis intervention to residential and community services. In a subsequent behavioral health discussion, area providers noted the positive impact of the Measure 110 funding they received to expand service capacity, the successful work their outreach teams are doing, and the workforce challenges in a rural community.

Following the visit to CCMH, the Governor had lunch in St. Helens with Mayor Rick Scholl and discussed local economic development opportunities and the ongoing efforts the city is leading to update its historic downtown.

She ended the day with the Community Action Team (CAT), a community organization that works to provide supportive services for veterans, help people pay rent, find permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness, and more. CAT has 16 housing units on site to support Oregonians transitioning out of unsheltered homelessness and has successfully supported 45 individuals to reach permanent housing.

The Governor heard about how CAT delivers services, followed by a roundtable discussion with regional service providers about the intersection between behavioral health and homelessness, social determinants of health, and the need to support veterans.

Governor Kotek will visit every county in Oregon within her first year in office through the “One Oregon Listening Tour” to foster trust and build strong partnerships across the state to get results for Oregonians, with a focus on housing and homelessness, mental health and recovery, and early learning and education.


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