NAMI SO Opposed to Proposal for New Jackson County Jail Tax District

The National Alliance on Mental Illness Southern Oregon (NAMI SO) announced today  they will officially oppose Jackson County’s proposal to create a new Jail Tax District, scheduled to appear on May’s ballot.

NAMI SO lists their mission to advocate for people with mental illness as the primary reason for the opposition. “We are focused on the decriminalization of mental illness,” states Meesha Blair of the NAMI SO Steering and Advocacy Committees, “The new jail is being promoted as a way to get services to people by incarcerating them and holding them longer; that’s a step backwards.”

The creation of a very large, dedicated silo of funds is another reason for the organization’s stance. NAMI SO feels there is still a need for many other services, like housing, substance-use treatment and, of course, mental health solutions. “As long as community members continue to contact NAMI, desperate for their loved-ones to find access to mental health treatment, we cannot condone using such a large amount of taxpayer funds for just one portion of the problem,” Blair explains.

“Just last week, two people reached out that their loved ones were in pre-crisis and wanted help to adjust their medications to avoid a relapse, but that they couldn’t get in to see their prescribers for 2-3 months. By then, it will likely be too late – those folks may have lost the window of opportunity and they may be two of the people contributing to jail overcrowding…That is avoidable.”

At the same time, NAMI SO also stresses they know the existing jail is inadequate and unnecessarily unpleasant – for inmates and staff alike. NAMI is not opposed to a new jail, if it can be built in a manner that would also allow for other efforts that may be found to be more effective, such as pre-arrest diversion programs.

“We understand that our law enforcement needs good options to house people who are a danger to our community, and we want to continue working with law enforcement and the county to come up with good solutions,” says Blair.

“We hope to continue our assistance with Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and other Mental Health trainings and offering any assistance with Peer and Family support programs and education. NAMI has a lot they can do in partnership with our law enforcement and County. We don’t see them as the enemy in any way. We are optimistic that a compromise on a new jail can be reached that will allow us all to follow our respective missions.”