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Multnomah County Board Chairman Jeff Cogen said today that he will make training of thousands of first-responders in "mental health first aid" the centerpiece of his 2013 agenda.
Cogen spoke at the City Club of Portland, giving his annual State of the County address.
“Jeff and I have talked about the city and the county being better partners,” Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said. “This is an exciting approach to an issue that’s of importance to both the city and the county.”
Cogen expects the county, using contract trainers, to begin offering intensive, two-day seminars later this summer to "front-line responders" such as county workers, non-profit agency employees, teachers and Portland police officers.
"We're basically talking about anyone who is in a role to have direct contact with potentially vulnerable populations," Cogen told The Oregonian’s Dana Tims before the speech.
The training program, expected to cost between $200,000 and $300,000, has been used elsewhere, most notablyAustraliaand in some largeU.S.cities. Cogen's proposal, which has the support of the county's four other commissioners, would be one of the first – and by far the largest – implementations of such training in Oregon.
Cogen said he struck on the idea after growing frustrated at the apparent policy stalemate after the Newtown,Conn., shooting.
"The gun lobby in this country has been very successful in passing laws making it hard to restrain the sale of weapons in our communities," he said. "So we are trying to look hard at what we can do right now to make a turning point possible."
If you can’t make it to the City Club of Portland to hear Chair Cogen, tune in OPB at 7 p.m. tonight for the re-broadcast.