Douglas County serves its residents in many ways through a variety of boards and committees. One of its lesser-known bodies is the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council, or LPSCC.
If you’ve never heard of LPSCC, don’t worry — you’re not alone. The Council doesn’t have a high profile, despite its important behind-the-scenes criminal justice work. This column is meant to raise awareness about LPSCC and how it is helping people and striving to make our community safer.
First, a little bit of background: Since 1995, every county in Oregon has been required to have an LPSCC. The idea is to bring criminal justice leaders, health and behavioral health providers, elected officials and others together periodically to discuss policy and manage grants designed to provide resources to be used locally, as we see fit, to implement programs to keep criminals from reoffending.
Douglas County’s LPSCC meetings are chaired by me. Our vice chair is Joe Garcia, the director of Douglas County Community Corrections. Additionally, membership on the council includes the Douglas County District Attorney, Umpqua Valley Public Defender, Douglas County Sheriff, Douglas County Circuit Court Presiding Judge, Roseburg Police Chief, Roseburg City Manager, Cow Creek Tribal Police, Oregon State Police, Douglas County Juvenile Department, ADAPT Integrated Health Care, Umpqua Health Alliance, Douglas Public Health Network, City of Myrtle Creek, Douglas CARES, Peace at Home, CHI Mercy Medical Center, Oregon Youth Authority and a citizen liaison.
Because of its strong collaboration and successful projects in recent years, Douglas County’s LPSCC is considered one of the best in the state.
It has a Behavioral Health and Housing Subcommittee, which focuses on decreasing recidivism by connecting justice-involved people to services and housing resources. One of the Subcommittee’s initiatives was Connecting Point, a “one-stop shop” resource fair designed to connect inmates released from jail to services that they need. It now operates at multiple locations weekly.
There is also a Justice Reinvestment Subcommittee that oversees a state grant focused on rehabilitating drug and property offenders. The bulk of that grant supports the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program in the jail.
The full LPSCC meets on the first Tuesday of every other month. The Behavioral Health and Housing Subcommittee meets monthly, and the JRI Subcommittee meets on an as-needed basis.
Much of LPSCC’s work has been at the intersection of behavioral health and criminal justice. The idea is that if we can connect people who have mental health issues or addiction to treatment, we can help them stabilize, make significant life changes and stop committing crimes. In successful cases, these individuals stop cycling through the jail and start doing things like finding stable housing, getting jobs and reuniting with their kids. When this transformation happens, it is remarkable to see.
I personally believe strongly in second chances, when those chances are earned. As a business owner, I have employed many people over the years who were formerly justice-involved. When a repeat offender becomes a good employee and a productive citizen, it is a win not only for that person but for the community.
One of the strengths of Douglas County’s LPSCC is its collaboration. Partners are willing to work together and support each other in endeavors that will benefit the community. Some examples of this cooperation include: the collaborative effort that resulted in the opening of the Sobering Center, where intoxicated individuals can stabilize and be connected to resources; a state grant known as IMPACTS that assists frequent users of the jail and emergency department; and ADAPT’s Mobile Crisis program, which was launched through a collaboration with the City of Roseburg.
The target population of these initiatives includes people with mental illness. This is a priority for Douglas County; in early 2018, the County officially joined the Stepping Up Initiative and committed to reducing the number of people with mental illness in the jail. All of these efforts support that goal.
Accountability is important. People who commit crimes — especially crimes that hurt other people — need to be held responsible. In many cases, incarceration is the appropriate response. But there are also many people who cycle through the criminal justice system — in Douglas County and nationwide — without getting the treatment they need for their mental illness or addiction. LPSCC and partners are working to change this.
In the months to come, we hope to tell you more about the programs mentioned above, including from the perspective of individuals who have been assisted by those programs. The goal is to help readers gain a better understanding of this behind-the scenes work in the arena of criminal justice.
Chris Boice is a Douglas County Commissioner and the chair of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council.