County hosts first of two community forums

Nearly 75 community members attended a Community Mental Health Forum at Linus Pauling Middle School in Corvallis on September 13. Community members attended in person and online. The meeting started with a short presentations from Commissioner Xan Augerot, Sheriff Jef Van Arsdall, and Suzanne Hoffman, Health Department Director. It concluded with a panel discussion and questions from the audience. The panel included Nick Kurth, JSIP Program Manager and community partners Laura Hennum, CEO, Good Samaritan Regional Medical Services and Andrea Myhre, Executive Director, Corvallis Housing First. Also in attendance were Commissioners Nancy Wyse and Pat Malone and Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson.

Commissioner Xan Augerot opened the presentation with an overview of Benton County’s plan to improve mental health outcomes in the justice system. “Experiencing mental health crisis does not lead to criminal activity,” she noted, “however, we know that a high proportion of folks ensnared in the justice system suffer from mental health and substance abuse, and may be experiencing homelessness.”

Some of the statistics shared at the meeting highlight the need for more mental health services for those in crisis and for adults in custody. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness each year. In the Benton County justice system, 1 in 3 adults in custody needs mental health treatment. (Source: 2019 Benton County Criminal Justice Assessment)

“The downtown Crisis Center will be a critical addition, filling the gap in the County’s continuum of care,” shared Commissioner Augerot. “And a modern, treatment-centered correctional facility will include adequate space to hold people who commit crimes while delivering educational programs, and mental health and addiction services that cannot be provided in the current jail.” The correctional facility and expanded crisis center services are part of a bond measure Benton County Commissioners are considering to put before voters on the May 2023 ballot.

Watch the video presentation and panel discussion

Review the presentation slides

While many questions were addressed by the panel, County staff will be compiling and reviewing all of the questions received. Question topics will be added to the Common Questions page of the Justice System Improvement Program website.

A second community forum will be held on Wednesday, October 19 at 6:00 pm at Linus Pauling Middle School in Corvallis.  The meeting will focus on community safety and improving accountability and emergency response. Attendees are invited to attend in person or register to attend online. Questions may be directed to