Lane County responds to growing mental health crisis, increases resources

More people in Lane County are needing and seeking out help for mental health related challenges.

That’s according to recent data from both Lane County and the University of Oregon. And with five adolescent suicides already in 2018 — the annual average is seven –– Lane County is responding.

Lane County recently activated an emergency system called the Incident Command Structure — a defensive mechanism that the Lane County Health and Human Services uses to respond to large issues within the community and especially those that cause collective trauma, according to Roger Brubaker, the suicide prevention coordinator for Lane County.

The structure means that duties within Health and Human Services shift and reorganize temporarily in order to address the problem. Some of these roles include an Incident Commander, people who take care of operations, as well as Brubaker, who is the subject matter expert on suicide to help guide the process.

However, Lane County has never had to use the structure in regards to suicide before.

“Suicide prevention has been an ongoing focus in our community,” Brubaker said. “Right now we’re really seeing increased need for suicide-specific services.”

This increased need has recently surfaced at UO. Within the past few years, crisis appointments at the UO counseling center have risen from 441 scheduled appointments and 415 attended appointments in the 2014-15 academic year to 634 scheduled and 590 attended in the 2016-17 year.

With the increased need there has also been an increased amount of attended appointments. According to Suzie Stadelman, the suicide prevention team coordinator for UO, compared to this time last year there has been a 5 percent increase in attended crisis appointments. There has also been a 7 percent increase in time spent providing crisis support.

“Our centers and centers across the nation have experienced an increase in not just crisis appointments, but appointments in general,” Stadelman said. Stadelman said that it appears that students are reaching out more, along with the fact that the UO Counseling Center has seen an increase in staff that can better tend to the student population.

One of the more memorable uses of the Incident Command Structure was in 2015, when a meningitis outbreak occurred at UO.

Some of the resources for crisis intervention are the UO Counseling Center, which is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Thursdays, it is available between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. There is also an after-hours support and crisis line, which is at 541-346-3227.

Follow Kylie Storm on Twitter: @kmstorm99

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