BLOG: Alliance members lead community response to mental health care crisis

BLOG: Alliance members lead community response to mental health care crisis

After years in the making, the Unity Center for Behavioral Health opened its doors to the public late last month. 

Located at 1225 N.E. Second Avenue, the center offers 24-hour emergency psychiatric services and ongoing treatment plans to those experiencing any kind of mental health crisis. The facility has beds for 80 adults and 22 adolescents age 9 to 18, and it brings a much-needed alternative for regional law enforcement officials and hospital emergency room staff, who for decades have been on the front lines in responding to these crises with limited resources.   

On behalf of the Alliance community, I would like to extend a sincere ‘thank you’ to our members who helped make the Unity center possible: Legacy Health, Adventist Health, Kaiser Permanente Northwest and Oregon Health & Science University. These leading regional health care providers collaborated to create the $40 million facility, which is the first of its kind in the northwest. 

Through our Portland Can Do Better campaign, the Alliance has been advocating for more mental health care services, a separate but related issue to homelessness. While exact figures are not available, a 2015 Point in Time Report that covers Portland, Gresham and Multnomah County, reveals that a high percentage of the regional homeless population would likely qualify as having a mental health disability. 

One doesn’t have to look hard to see this unfortunate reality playing out in public. If you’ve seen men, women and youth in our community in the middle of a crisis of mental health or addiction, you know how unsafe it can feel for those experiencing the emergency and for those who witness it.    

Unity offers real, long-term solutions. After immediate evaluation, stabilization and a plan for after discharge, outreach workers will help patients connect with treatment and resources like housing and job assistance, legal aid, addiction treatment and family counseling. 

Unity is a great example of how a regional community can come together to solve a major public health challenge once managed and funded at the federal level. This also shows what’s possible when public and private sectors come together and combine expertise and resources to benefit the common good. 

The center began with a transformational gift from the Robert D. and Marcia H. Randall Charitable Trust and will continue to operate through public-sector partnerships and private-sector donations. While the new facility is extensive, the need is vast and ongoing. 

If you would like to donate, or if you see or know of someone experiencing a behavioral or mental health crisis, please contact the Unity center at 503-944-8000 or visit their web site at