September 4, 2017:    East Portland’s Adventist-run Emotional Wellness Center is doing battle with a mental health crisis in Portland and across the state of Oregon.

Mental Health America recently rated Oregon last in the country for mental health needs, access and outcomes.

The Emotional Wellness Center is a new venture for Adventist Health, a 20-hospital system which also runs Adventist Health – Portland (formerly Adventist Medical Center.)

An article in The Lund Report (an Oregon health care news source) said that the center is an “intensive outpatient program” or “partial hospitalization program.” The center does not forcibly hold patients. They are free to leave if they wish.

The facility serves patients that are chronically suicidal according to Dr. Y Pritham Raj, the Emotional Wellness Center’s medical director. He said that the center also serves “others who need tweaking: optimization of this distressed tolerance skill set.”

Raj said that the center is trying to destigmatize mental health struggles.

“There’s too much stigma in mental healthcare, so destigmatizing is a good thing, normalcy is a good thing,” he said.

The center is across the street from Adventist Health – Portland, on the third floor of Professional Building #2. There is no signage.

“We want it to be inviting and warm and not as, maybe … psychiatric, if I can put it that way,” said Raj. “Sometimes psychiatric, we think cold, Spartan, let’s not do damage to anything. Here, patients go, ‘I can function normally. I do belong in an office, not in a place with a bed and four walls.’”

Currently, the center serves 11 patients, and is working to soon serve 30 patients, with capacity for 50. In addition to Raj, there is a psychiatric nurse practitioner, director of operations, transportation specialist, three therapists, a case manager, a nurse and staff at the front desk.

It is open to walk-in patients including the homeless as well as Medicare and Medicaid patients. Raj estimates that 75-80% of the patients are from socio-economically challenged backgrounds.

“The psychiatric burden in East (Portland) is high, I would say highest in the [metro] area,” Dr. Raj says. “So we’re located in a prime position to help those that need the care the most.”

Janie Marsh Gullickson, executive director of Mental Health Association of Oregon said she hopes that facilities like Emotional Wellness Center will help improve the dismal mental health rating in Oregon.

However, she says the roots of the crisis lie in other issues such as insufficient housing, food security, employment, education, and community.

She posed the rhetorical question, “how can we expect someone’s emotional or mental health or addiction challenges to improve, when they just have to go back out to the same environment with the same issues?”

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