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Oregon Mental Health Concerns Pegged as Worst in Nation

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Oregon is known for its scenic beauty. Unfortunately, the state also has a reputation as being dead last in the nation for the prevalence of mental health disorders.

Of course, this is not the kind of reputation that anyone wants.

How do mental health issues contribute to addiction across the state? What can be done to treat addiction and co-occurring mental disorders?

Oregon Struggles with Addiction and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders

The non-profit organization Mental Health America (MHA) surveys data from every state in the nation each year to determine which regions are providing adequate care for people living with addiction and co-occurring mental disorders. The study analyzes 15 categories before ranking states by the number of people living with these diseases as well as their access to treatment. The organization has been around for 100 years and has affiliates across the country.

MHA is the country’s top community-based non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of people living with mental illness. Their goal is to increase access to treatment and promote wellness in the general population.

Some of the factors reviewed by MHA on a state-by-state basis include:

  • The number of adults with any form of mental illness
  • The number of adults and youth with a drug or alcohol dependency
  • The number of suicidal adults
  • How many youths had at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in the prior year and how many received consistent treatment for their disease
  • How many adults with these disabilities could not see a doctor due to cost or other access issues
  • The volume of children and teens with private insurance that did not offer coverage for emotional or mental problems


The study suggested the top ten best states that had lower incidences of addiction and co-occurring mental disorders included:

  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Georgia
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • Hawaii

The worst ranking of all fell to Oregon, who came in at 51 in this category. The study also highlighted Oregon’s high marks for homelessness, students who fail to graduate and child abuse.

KGW8 reported: “Years ago, there was a national movement to close institutionalized mental hospitals because of harsh treatment and poor funding. Hospitals in Portland and Eastern Oregon closed down. That left many of the patients homeless because of inadequate follow-up care and housing.”

It seems Oregon has never fully recovered.

Addiction and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders #1 on the List of Worries for Students

A national non-profit organization working in the field of addiction and co-occurring mental disorders is not the only one calling for change. Oregon Public Broadcasting did a story this year on A State of Our Schools report. The report interviewed more than 2,200 students in 42 schools across Oregon via an online survey and through focus groups to determine:

  • Their experience in school
  • Their relationship with teachers
  • Their ability to effect change in school by being involved in decision-making
  • What issues were most important to the students

The study suggested that the issue of biggest concern for students is mental health and wellness. About half of the students felt they could get help for addiction and co-occurring mental disorders in their schools. They cited waiting for appointments with a counselor at school negatively affecting mental health. They also suggested that standardized testing was detrimental to their mental health, damaging their self-esteem by placing square pegs in round holes — or trying to do so.

Students also suggested their general powerlessness was a causal factor in depression and frustration with the school system and their inability to create change. The report stated: “It is clear that a significant portion of students feel incapable of using current outlets to express their concerns at the district level, or believe those outlets are non-existent.”

SAMHSA Says Addiction and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders Increasing in Oregon

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a government entity charged with tracking these disorders recently released the Behavioral Health Barometer for Oregon. It showed that the state ranked high for addictive behaviors and substance use when compared to the rest of the United States. For example:

  • For the years 2014 to 2015, adolescents’ aged 12–17 used marijuana more regularly than the national average.
  • Cigarette usage remained about average with the rest of the country.
  • During the same timeframe, alcohol use remained about the same as national trends.
  • From 2011 to 2015 8.9 percent of students ages 12–17 initiated alcohol usage for the first time.
  • 6.6 percent tried pot for the first time.

Even more concerning, and tied closely with the MHA report, the study noted in the years 2014 to 2015 Oregon’s annual number of adolescents that experienced a major depressive illness was higher than the national average. The number of children ages 12–17 that received treatment for this disorder was higher than the rest of the country. According to these figures, each year about 19,000 Oregon teenagers suffered from depression and received treatment.

What Do The Statistics Mean?

Addiction and co-occurring disorders are rampant across Oregon. While the Oregon treatment and recovery community offers needed support for addiction and co-occurring mental disorders, the problem is so widespread there simply are not enough facilities to go around.

For people struggling with these diseases, if their financial situation precludes receiving treatment, or if the facility is simply too full to handle more patients, they may wind up in hospital emergency rooms, discharged on to the streets, or possibly in jail. While Oregon addiction treatment resources are trying to keep up with demand, in fact, they are not.

OregonLive recently published an opinion piece by Dr. Satya Chandragiri, who states:

“Our elected leaders remain silent and have made no attempt to address or correct this crisis. The unmet demand for inpatient psychiatric services, paired with Gov. Kate Brown’s earlier proposal to close the state psychiatric hospital in Junction City, prove that our elected leaders are not taking this crisis seriously. In addition, the Brown Administration blocked a proposal last year for a new 100-bed inpatient psychiatric facility. These actions have impacted the state’s entire system.”

The current statistics place Oregon at the bottom for facing the crisis. It is a wake-up call that signals the healthcare community must work together to improve care for Oregon’s residents before more lives are lost.

The good news is that, for Oregonians in need of addiction treatment nearby, The Recovery Village Ridgefield offers comprehensive, personalized addiction treatment programs in nearby Washington State. Contact us today. Our intake specialists are standing by to help you learn more about admissions to this state-of-the-art facility, where you or a loved one can find long-term healing.