Facing a massive state budget shortfall to the tune of $150 million, Oregon lawmakers continue their slash-and-burn policies. Last week, state officials announced far reaching cuts that will affect the state's most vulnerable populations--the elderly, disabled, mentally ill, and the substance-dependent. Beginning in February, the state will slash $20 million from its mental health and addiction services funding, and cut those same services out of the Oregon Health Plan.

The effect, says Richard Harris, executive director of Central City Concern (CCC), may result "in the perfect nightmare." CCC is the downtown nonprofit operating many of Portland's mental health, at-risk, and addiction rehabilitation centers in Portland, among them the Hooper Detox Center and the Old Town Clinic. Like other social service providers around the state, they're preparing to cut services, close housing, and lay off staff.

"When you start cutting infrastructure around the community, you're going to see a lot of homeless people [on the street] that were in state institutions," says Harris.

One announced closure is the Taft Hotel, tucked off Burnside on SW 13th. An 80-bed facility mostly serving mentally ill men, the Taft has been running at a deficit since the late '90s. Now losing $400,000 a year, its impending closure is April 1.

"Quite frankly, I'm pessimistic that anything can keep the Taft open," said Leslie Ford, executive director of Cascadia Behavioral Health Care. In addition to losing much of their public funding, Ford says that Taft residents will suffer from cuts to their Oregon Health Plan benefits. As outlined by state legislature, beginning March 1, over 124,000 Oregonians will lose their access to counseling, medication, and chemical dependency services.

Voters have the chance to restore some of the cuts by passing a temporary income tax hike in January (Measure 28), raising the typical Oregonian's rates by $69 a year. But the lost benefits from the Oregon Health Plan is a separate budget cut and will remain etched in stone regardless of the vote in January. "Measure 28 is just a Band-aid," says Harris. "Once you terminate facilities, you don't get them back."