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Mental health takes center stage


County politicians meet to hash out top legislative issues in 2014

Mental health care will get much more attention in Washington County this year if Andy Duyck has anything to say about it.

The chairman of Washington County’s Board of Commissioners announced help for the mentally ill as one of his top priorities in 2014 when he spoke to fellow elected officials from western Washington County — including city, county, Metro and state politicians — at their annual Joint Legislative Dinner and Session last Thursday.

The state is struggling to handle the needs of Oregon’s mentally ill people, Duyck said, and “local governments need to pick up some social services.”

“I couldn’t be happier to hear you say that,” said state Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Warren).

Humanitarian issues are linked to economic development, said Johnson, adding that “mental health is at the root of homelessness and so many other issues both local governments and the state deal with.

“Because all of us lack resources, we don’t have as coordinated a partnership as we should,” she said. But “we share the same constituencies and we ought to be working in partnership together.”

On a separate topic, Johnson criticized an Oregonian story from that day — describing how Intel’s tax breaks take money away from every school district in the state — as a “not completely accurate portrayal of Intel’s contribution to our state.”

Hillsboro City Manager Michael Brown also voiced strong support for the Hillsboro-based high-tech company, which has been harshly criticized on several fronts this year.

“We are truly privileged to have a company called Intel here,” he said, describing the many ways Intel supports the community.

Cornelius Mayor Jef Dalin raised the issue of phone users who don’t pay into the 911 system because they use disposable phones “picked up at Freddy’s.”

Johnson said she advocates collecting 911 taxes at the point of sale rather than from providers later on.

“I am a firm supporter of fully funding 911,” said Johnson, who broke her pelvis in a car accident last fall.

Other officials raised the perennial topics of transportation and the urban growth boundary.

Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington mentioned projects at Killin Wetlands near Banks and the Chehalem Ridge Natural Area and said Metro has good opportunities to add to its natural areas: “With the recession over and the economy picking up, we have a lot more willing sellers.”