I work at one of Oregon’s leading providers of mental health services for children. The work that we do is so important both for the families we serve directly and for the broader community we live in. By helping children, we can avoid the costs of untreated mental illness that are present in far too many of our communities today.
I love to watch the clients improve throughout their journey at the Parry Center. When I was young I found solace in talking with the lunch room workers, it was therapeutic for me while I was having some problems with depression. Now I get to be that person, providing insight into real world worries. I only hope that I provide the same level of comfort and understanding that I received when I needed it. It is the most beautiful thing in the world helping a child to regain the trust in adults that has been destroyed by the trauma they have endured. I hope that children leave knowing that they can at least trust me.
And while we’ve made great progress, it’s clear that we still need to do better. Of Oregon’s approximately 3.8 million residents, close to 137,000 adults and about 39,000 children live with serious mental health conditions. Suicide is the 11th-leading cause of death overall and is the third-leading cause of death among youth and young adults.
We should be expanding access to mental health services to address these issues. But right now Oregon is facing budget cuts that will reduce access to services for children. I am worried that the current budget deficit will result in Oregon rolling back the progress we have made on mental health, and the opportunity to do more will slip through our fingers.
Oregon is facing a $1.4 billion budget deficit that’s primarily caused by the fact that we have one of the lowest corporate taxes in the country. Today, corporations only contribute about 5 percent of the tax revenues collected in Oregon – regular people like you and me are on the hook for the other 95 percent – and that simply isn’t fair.
That’s why I am passionate about our need to raise revenue from corporations and invest it in mental health services. Every life lost to untreated mental illness reflects on our state’s failure to adequately fund these vital services. I believe our legislators need to show leadership on this right now. We cannot wait.