Since March 5, White Bird Clinic, Lane County’s crisis-intervention service, has teamed up with the Eugene Public Library to extend the accessibility of services already available through existing locations. White Bird’s “Library Extension Plan” is a free service for walk-in counseling and referrals for community members seeking someone to talk to.
White Bird operates medical and dental clinics, drug and alcohol treatment programs, outpatient mental health services, offers housing support and connects local residents to other resources. This is the first time in history that White Bird has done an extension of its crisis office.
Michelle Perin is one of two crisis counselors who will be available through the Library Extension Plan. With multiple years of experience as an EMT, she believes that White Bird is qualified to serve as a first contact for people experiencing a wide variety of issues because of its breadth in resources.
“Longer term counseling is unfortunately at a minimum right now in Lane County. Waitlists are really, really long just to get into to see a counselor. This is a way to fill the gap,” Perin said. “This is crisis counseling – we’re not licensed to do long-term therapy. The idea is to work with the other agencies that are already out there – places that people may not be able to access on their own.”
According to an interview from last month with Eugene Weekly, Margaret Alexander, librarian and facilities manager for the Eugene Public Library, said that roughly 3,000 people visit the library every day. This is partly due to its close proximity to Eugene Station and according to Perin, because it’s also a place to be calm: a place to recharge more than just a phone.
“It’s one of the only places where people can find a safe, warm place to be quiet. It’s a hub of community. It goes way beyond just checking out books,” Perin said.
The White Bird Clinic began in 1969 as an answer to the large increase of homeless youth in and around Lane County.
Perin believes that the process of beginning counseling can sometimes be scary and discouraging. Oftentimes, appointments are scheduled months in advance with little help in between.
“We’re hoping that it will be kind of a model for other communities. If it’s successful here in Lane County, we’d love to extend it to surrounding cities, like Oak Ridge, Creswell or Cottage Grove – places that don’t have any resources like this at all,” Perin said.
Currently, the Library Extension Plan is funded through December 2018, with a possibility of refunding in the near future. Services are available Monday through Thursday, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.