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Oregon Senate President Calls for Mental Health Reform

Virginia Alvino
Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. – One of the most influential state lawmakers in Salem wants Oregon to make what he calls a “game-changing” investment in community mental health services. Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney proposes a dedicated tax or fee to cover the expense.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, fewer than half of adults who need mental health treatment actually get it. The number is even lower for young people.

Senate President Peter Courtney is a long time advocate for increasing services for the mentally ill. He says after mass-shootings at the Clackamas Town Center and Sandyhook Elementary, the time is right for a big increase in spending, and Courtney says he has little patience for talk with no action.

“You know, yes it’s the terrible tragedy that’s finally gotten me to the point I’m not gonna take this anymore. You want to do mental health? We’re gonna do mental health. Otherwise don’t tell me we should do something about mental illness. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear it.”

Courtney doesn’t have a proposal for a specific revenue source, but says that an increase in Oregon’s beer and wine tax is a possibility.

He’s calling for an investment of $285 million for services to adults, and another $46 million for youth.