Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen found little to smile about today after Mayor Charlie Hales shared plans to cut hundreds of thousands in cash the city had been spending on county social services programs. But in a conversation with the Mercury at 4:30 this afternoon—it's had to wait to go up because of our print deadline—he railed against one cut in particular as falling in a "different category": a proposal to pull $600,000 from the county's 16-bed Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center.

As the Mercury first reported in January, though the city and county planned and built the facility specifically as a mental health resource for police, the cops have yet to take a single person there in the nearly two years it's been open. Losing the money will force the CATC to give up five of its beds—which translates to losing help for an expected 200 people over the fiscal year.

The police bureau has complained that rules limiting who can be taken to the facility (someone must be stable and lack private insurance) pose too many "obstacles" for cops. The bureau prefers a much more expensive drop-off center where officers don't have to call ahead or spend any time helping with intake. City commissioners and the mayor appear to have been swayed by that argument, which the county has rejected as the cops looking for "convenience" instead of good public policy. The recommendation came in a report submitted to Hales by Commissioners Steve Novick and Nick Fish.

“The notion that the police bureau is convincing people to disinvest in a facility that provides a safe place for people in a mental health crisis is unbelievable,” Cogen says. “This is a bureau that's being sued by the federal government."

Captain Sara Westbrook of the police bureau, city sources say, was charged with talking to the county about ways to make the CATC work better for the police bureau. Westbrook's lack of progress was seen as a sign that accommodations weren't possible. But Cogen, when asked, says the bureau "never" actually came forward with specific suggestions.

"Because police don't find it convenient, the city should back off on its obligation?" Cogen says. "Because of their backing off, hundreds of people will be in a crisis with nowhere to go, except for encountering police, and it doesn't make sense to me."

"They have not tried to sit down with us and make it work," Cogen added.

Cogen says not only did the city help conceive of the center after the death of James Chasse Jr. at the hands of police in 2006 but that the city also signed a contract to pay for it. "We relied on it to invest in the facility," he says, suggesting Hales wasn't familiar with the history. Cogen thought it worth mentioning that this was one of the few areas where he and his political frenemy, former Mayor Sam Adams, had no disagreements.

Cogen, using words like "stunned" and "shocked" to convey how much he's "deeply disappointed," has urged Hales to reconsider.

"This is the one current investment the city makes" in the mental health system, Cogen says.
"It's a very bad choice. I sure hope the mayor and his colleagues, in the course of the coming month, decicde not to do it. I'm pretty hopeful they will. It's not a decison that's consistent with the values of this council."