Multnomah County is preparing to open its first behavioral health center

In the heart of downtown Portland, the Behavioral Health Resource Center — the first of its kind for Multnomah County — will soon open its doors to the public.

In stark contrast to the unused gated park in O’Bryant Square across the street, the health center is newly renovated and purposefully welcoming.

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of the building at 3rd Street and Park — and the adjacent parking lot — for $5.8 million in 2019. The center will open to the public in early December.

The new resource center will have four floors: The first and second floors will host the day care center, the third floor will serve as a 33-bed overnight facility, and the fourth floor will contain a transitional housing project called the Bridge Housing program.

“People can come to the front door in any condition,” said Deandre Kenyanjui, coordinator of the Office of Consumer Engagement.

Kenyanjui said the center has low barriers, meaning people can seek mental health and addiction services even if they don’t have a formal diagnosis and regardless of sobriety. Organizers say the center and shelter services will be gender-inclusive and culturally responsive. The facility also accepts pets.

People seeking services at the day center will receive peer-to-peer services from the moment they arrive, provided by people who have first-hand experience with mental health and addiction challenges.

“They’re able to bring a different level of compassion to the work, and they also know what’s successful and they know what they’ve been traumatized by,” Kenyanjui said.

The day center will have a wound care nurse. Art and cooking classes, charging stations, laundry facilities, lockers and showers are also available. People can be connected to various types of mental health care, employment assistance, 12-step recovery, and more.

According to Krista Jones, senior manager of Multnomah County’s Community Mental Health Program, the county’s first behavioral resource center is in a high-need part of downtown Portland.

“We’re working very closely with local businesses and neighbors to assure them that this is really going to be a support,” Jones said. “Those individuals we’re going to serve live there anyway.”

Supporters say everything about the project is trauma-informed. All aspects of the space are designed to avoid a negative reaction, from the design, to the art, to the way security is addressed, to the green space created in the adjacent parking lot.

“It means really appreciating those trigger points that some people may have, but also wanting people to experience a welcoming and safe space,” Jones said.

The project cost the county $26 million. More than half came from the county’s general fund, with some of the project covered by additional state funding, including $10 million in lottery bonds. Part of the funds will come in the form of a loan from the state. More than 55 people will work in the center.

The shelter will allow up to 30 days of stay for people who need a place to sleep. The Bridge Housing program offers a 19-bed shelter where people can stay for up to 90 days while they are helped to find permanent housing.

“I’m a lived experience person who has often been homeless and struggled with addiction, and I could only dream of having a service like this to navigate me and lead me to wellness,” Kenyanjui said. “People can and do recover with the right services in place.”

While the day care center opens Dec. 5, the shelter and bridging housing program won’t be ready until next spring.

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