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Mental Health and Homelessness

Pete Springer/OPB

Eleven days before Jack Dale Collins was shot dead by Portland Police at Hoyt Arboretum, he visited the police bureau, confessed to a 42 year-old crime, and asked for help. He said he had molested a girl at his home when he was a teenager. He had forgotten many of the details, including the victim’s name, but the police report shows that during this confession (which as a crime had passed the statute of limitations) he also asked for mental health care. The officer recommended Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, but there is nothing to suggest that Collins followed up on this suggestion. According to The Oregonian, the officer said he would have driven Collins to Cascadia if he had been asked.

What would have happened if the process was different? If Collins had been taken to Cascadia, for example? Or perhaps if a crisis line had been called? What would have happened if he had received more mental health care long before setting foot into the police bureau?

Today we’ll explore how homelessness and mental health issues overlap, and what role society (including the police) should play to help these people. What should happen when police and homeless people with mental health issues come in contact with each other — as they regularly do — long before a crisis situation? What responsibiity do the police have to help the homeless who are mentally fragile? And if the police are not responsible, who should be?


24-hour mental health call center: 503-988-4888

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