Lighting the Way for Healthier Communities: Serving Portland, Together

Aug 13, 2020

For our final National Health Center Week installment, we're shining the spotlight on our incredible community partners who have made it possible for us to face the unique challenges of COVID-19 and serve the Portland community together.

• • •

Relationships with government, partner organizations and the entire community have made it possible for Central City Concern to rise to the unique challenges of COVID-19 and protect those who are most at risk of the physical, economic and social impacts. From city, county and state agencies, to other non-profit service providers, to compassionate businesses, we're grateful to all of our community partners for helping us create a solid web of support for those experiencing homelessness. These are a few of the partners who have made it possible for us to keep our doors open through the coronavirus pandemic.

Multnomah County

Before Governor Brown issued Oregon’s shelter-in-place order, CCC’s Incident Management Team was hard at work preparing for the reality of COVID-19. One of our most critical, immediate needs was Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – we didn’t have enough on hand to keep our doors open while keeping our staff and community safe. We sounded the alarm, and Multnomah County swiftly responded with a delivery of much-needed PPE.

“It changed our whole posture on how we could operate safely,” said CCC CEO and President Rachel Solotaroff. “The responsiveness and resourcefulness of the County allowed us to keep our face-to-face, onsite and outreach-based services intact.”

The County’s partnership has been consistent and ongoing. Multnomah County Public Health has provided CCC with crucial guidance on topics including testing, contract tracing and operating safely in congregate settings. The Multnomah County Health Officer, Jennifer Vines, has been especially responsive to our concerns and questions, always a phone call away. Ebony Clarke, Director of Multnomah County’s Mental Health and Addiction Services Division, has provided outstanding leadership to our behavioral health providers. Her ongoing weekly phone calls with providers have been an invaluable resource for sharing concerns, communicating needs and creating community. CCC is grateful for Multnomah County’s leadership and partnership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.


Ensuring the safety of our staff, clients and community has been CCC’s priority since the start of the pandemic, and OHSU’s partnership has been critical in helping us keep this promise. OHSU provides free, no-barrier COVID-19 testing to all CCC employees through their convenient, drive-through testing site. No appointment is necessary, making it easy for staff to get tested and quickly receive results. CCC and our employees are grateful – thanks to OHSU, our workforce has been able to stay where they need to be: serving patients and clients. Special shoutout to OHSU’s Occupational Health Manager Misti Powell for making this important partnership possible.

Legacy Health Partners

CCC’s single room occupancy (SRO) buildings and congregate care facilities have remained cluster-free throughout the pandemic – an incredible achievement given the higher risk of transmission associated with these settings. This has been possible in part due to the mobile COVID-19 testing clinic provided by Legacy Health Partners.

When two CCC residents self-reported positive COVID-19 tests, our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Andy Mendenhall reached out to Dr. Nick Kashey at Legacy Health Partners to devise a plan to prevent a potential cluster. Dr. Kashey and his team quickly sprang into action and set up a mobile testing station on the sidewalk outside of the building in less than 24 hours. Over 100 residents and staff were tested and results were available within three days. No other positive cases were found, and residents and staff could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that CCC’s infection prevention protocols have remained effective. CCC is grateful to Legacy Health Partners for helping us keep our communities safe.


Our long-time partner CareOregon has been instrumental in meeting the needs of our patients and keeping CCC sustainable in the face of financial challenges resulting from COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, CareOregon allowed CCC to rapidly transition to virtual appointments through phone and video visits, and even donated phones for clients without access to technology. CareOregon has also made sure that the overall decline in medical visits due to COVID-19didn’t undermine CCC’s financial stability. By supporting CCC through a financial payment model that offsets some of our losses, CareOregon has helped us keep our doors open. Thank you, CareOregon, for ensuring our services remain available to those who need us most during these challenging times.

Lighting the Way for Healthier Communities: Integrated Mental Health Care

Aug 12, 2020

The uncertainty of COVID-19 is impacting many of us, but for people working through severe mental health challenges, the trauma and triggers associated with the pandemic can be especially overwhelming. During National Health Center Week, we want to recognize the important work of our staff at Old Town Recovery Center, who show up every day to provide compassionate, trauma-informed care for individuals experiencing major mental illness.

• • •

Central City Concern’s Old Town Recovery Center (OTRC) has been a mainstay provider for Portlanders experiencing severe mental illness for more than 20 years. The majority of clients experience both mental health and addiction challenges, some are homeless, and all have been impacted by many years of poverty.

For individuals with severe mental illness, it takes a dedicated, interdisciplinary team to work alongside clients and support their success. Through an integrated coordinated care model, patients receive physical and mental health care, medication from OTRC’s onsite pharmacy, and personalized case management tailored to their individual needs. While COVID-19 has brought trauma and triggers – from social isolation to uncertainty about the future – OTRC has maintained its team-based approach, keeping clients grounded in a community committed to helping them heal and meet their goals during these turbulent times.

In less than three days, clinicians made the switch to virtual visits by phone or video – something that hadn’t existed at Old Town Recovery Center before the pandemic. .

Care teams and clinicians are a key ingredient to OTRC’s integrated model. Before the pandemic, nearly all clients enrolled in OTRC’s Intensive Case Management (ICM) program came in to the building for in-person visits with a counselor, psychiatrist or other mental health professional. In order to limit exposure to COVID-19 for clients and staff, the ICM team acted swiftly to ensure clients remained well-connected and supported.

Sally Swain leads up OTRC's Community Outreach Recovery Engagement (CORE) team, where caseloads are small and relationships are close between clients and staff.

In less than three days, clinicians made the switch to virtual visits by phone or video – something that hadn’t existed at OTRC before the pandemic. More than 100 clients without access to technology received cell phones so they could stay in touch.

“The team is doing amazing things,” said Bob Kleinjan, OTRC Clinical Supervisor. “It’s been difficult, and everyone has adapted to really tough circumstances. The fact that people are still showing up and doing their best is truly impressive.”

For clients experiencing the most severe mental health challenges, staff are still providing care onsite, in the field and by phone. The Community Outreach Recovery Engagement (CORE) team serves patients with major mental illness who would otherwise likely cycle in and out of hospitals, shelters or institutions. Caseloads are small on the CORE team and relationships are close.

OTRC's onsite pharmacy is bursting with action as staff work to fill medications.

“We’re in their homes and we’re in the community,” said Sally Swain, program manager for OTRC’s CORE and Assertive Community Team. “We send our clients birthday cards; we know their pets’ and neighbors’ names. We’re a supportive presence in their lives.”

Staff are calling clients daily to check in, delivering medicine and food boxes, and meeting their needs. It just looks a little different – wearing masks and staying six feet apart. But the connection is still there.

Pharmacists also play an important role in OTRC’s coordinated care model, serving as the connective tissue between clients’ primary care and psychiatric care. During COVID-19, the pharmacy remains a busy hub for clients picking up prescriptions and consulting with the pharmacists. For individuals cycling in and out of hospitals or homelessness, keeping track of medications can be a challenge. Pharmacists use tools like bubble-packing all of a client’s medications in one place, encouraging proper dosage and timing for medication adherence.

Netta Holden is an anchor for staff and clients alike. She and her staff set the mood for the first and second floor lobbies, making sure that clients and visitors are taken care of.

One consistent anchor for clients before and during the pandemic has been the staff they see whenever they come in for an appointment or to pick up medication. Netta Holden supervises OTRC’s front desk and lobbies. She and her staff wear many hats – answering phone calls, connecting people to resources, de-escalating situations and triaging people in crisis. Now, Netta and her team also make sure clients are following physical distancing recommendations and properly wearing face coverings to reduce the spread of infection.

“I’ve grown up with a lot of our clients,” said Holden, who has been doing this work since the early 2000s. “Knowing where they came from, I love to see how far they’ve come.”

COVID-19 has been a true test for OTRC’s coordinated care model – which has proven effective for those we serve, despite the challenges.

“This experience has made it clear that our programs are adaptable,” said Swain. “Our staff are creative, and our clients are resilient.It's been tough, but we’re getting through it together.”

Lighting the Way for Healthier Communities: A Whole Person Approach to Recovery

Aug 11, 2020

This year, National Health Center Week is shining a light on the impact of the COVID-19 on our health centers and our communities. Coronavirus has been particularly challenging for people struggling with substance use disorder and people in recovery. For our medical providers and recovery staff, creativity and innovation are more important than ever as we work to meet the needs of our clients and support their recovery.

• • •

Oregon ranks nearly last in the country in access to addiction treatment. Waitlists for treatment can be months long, and treatment is virtually inaccessible in some rural counties. This is one reason why one to two Oregonians die of drug overdoses every day, sometimes while waiting to get treatment.

Substance use disorder is also a key driver of homelessness. At Central City Concern, our goal is to meet people where they are with treatment options that meet their needs. Our comprehensive approach provides critical primary care, housing and employment assistance to help people stay on the path to recovery.


Oregon ranks nearly last in the country in access to addiction treatment . . . One to two Oregonians die of drug overdoses every day, sometimes while waiting to get treatment.


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a surge in substance use, acute withdrawal, relapse and overdose, as well as challenges for those currently in recovery. For CCC’s medical providers and recovery staff, creativity is more important than ever in meeting the needs of our clients and supporting their recovery.

Lauren Land is CCC’s Associate Medical Director of Primary Care at Old Town Clinic. She's also one of the pioneers of CCC’s Medically Managed Medication Supported Recovery Program, also known as M3. M3 is an office-based opioid treatment program helping those with an opioid use disorder through the use of prescribed buprenorphine (or Suboxone), used to help reduce harm from opioid addiction.

Office-based treatment is one tool in CCC’s toolbox of available substance use disorder programs. It's often a low-barrier window of opportunity for clients to receive recovery support while engaging with other services within CCC.

As a primary care provider, Land has the unique ability to engage across the spectrum of CCC recovery options, allowing her to support the whole person and address their physical, mental and social determinants of health (e.g. housing related issues, access to food, physical environment, etc.). CCC offers one of the most comprehensive arrays of recovery services in the region, including behavioral interventions and supports, medication management, supportive housing, acupuncture, harm reduction, mental health and culturally specific supports. These range from our Hooper Detoxification and Stabilization Center, CCC Recovery Center, and the Recuperative Care Program, to the Old Town Recovery Center, Imani and Letty Owings Center – to name a few.

Our goal is to meet patients wherever they are on their recovery journey.

“I’m so grateful to be able to offer these services to my patients,” said Land. “What makes CCC stand out is the fact that patients can engage with primary care, behavioral health and access our entire spectrum of services. We take a whole person approach, looking at all of the factors affecting a person’s physical and mental health.”


Our goal is to meet patients wherever they are on their recovery journey.


One of the cornerstones of recovery is human connection. For those in recovery, isolation is one of the biggest challenges of COVID-19 and can increase the urge to use. While in-person groups and one-on-one mentor sessions have been reduced, CCC has responded by providing tele-connections for clients – meetings with recovery mentors and support groups by phone and video. At the same time, CCC continues to offer a full array of onsite services, including medical visits and physically distanced recovery groups. We have a “no-barriers exist” philosophy.

CCC’s recovery staff often say that isolation is the opposite of recovery. That’s why CCC has made a concerted effort to ensure clients maintain connections with their support systems.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how many people in our communities have been living without proper care and stability. At CCC, we’ve stepped up quickly with a rapid response. We want Portlanders to know that help is available, and we're as steadfast as ever in our commitment to supporting people transitioning away from addiction struggles and homelessness.


Lighting the Way for Healthier Communities: Triage Teams & Screeners

Aug 10, 2020

We've had to innovate rapidly in response to COVID-19. Our second National Health Center Week spotlight is on the staff who screen and treat patients with COVID-like symptoms. Our screeners and COVID triage clinic teams play a big role in keeping our facilities safe and reducing the spread of the virus.

• • •

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed Central City Concern’s operations, but it hasn’t slowed them down.

CCC's clients, patients and residents — more than 13,000 people across the greater Portland area — depend on CCC for health care, housing, employment and more. And while many health services are now taking place over the phone or online, some care must still happen face to face. That includes everything from picking up medications to receiving medical care for acute conditions.

"They say necessity is the mother of invention – and we’ve had to innovate rapidly,” said Lauren Land.

These days, when patients arrive to CCC’s health clinics for face-to-face care, they’re greeted by a new kind of welcoming committee. At Old Town Clinic, Old Town Recovery Center and Blackburn Center, a group of employees screen all patients for COVID-like symptoms or exposures before they enter the building.

Anyone with concerning symptoms or potential exposures to COVID-19 is directed to a separate entrance. From there, they are guided to an isolated space — called the COVID triage clinic — where another group of CCC providers assess the patient and determine whether a COVID-19 test is needed.

Nastya Gallagher distributes face coverings and screens patients for COVID-like symptoms at the entrance of the Blackburn Center health clinic. COVID screeners and care providers in the COVID triage clinics have played an essential role in protecting the safety of patients and CCC staff during the pandemic.

"They say necessity is the mother of invention – and we’ve had to innovate rapidly,” said Lauren Land, Associate Medical Director of Primary Care at Old Town Clinic.

That innovation has meant a complete overhaul of the way CCC’s health clinics provide care, so they could continue to do it as safely as possible.

A large part of that overhaul depended on the flexibility and dedication of clinic staff.

“In the beginning, none of us knew what this was going to look like. We didn’t know if the NYC surge was going to happen in Portland, too. Staff stepped up right away, with flexibility and grace under pressure,” said Land.

Some clinic employees have been reassigned to work exclusively as COVID screeners and in the triage clinics. Others rotate through these roles while still performing their regular jobs.

 COVID screeners control the flow of people into CCC’s health clinics. Melody Barber screens any individual entering building, hands out free face masks to patients and receives mail deliveries in order to reduce the number of people going in and out.

Nastya Gallagher is usually a front desk receptionist at Blackburn Center, but she has worked as a screener nearly every day since March.

For Nastya, the main challenge has been clear communication with patients.

“I want folks to know that I’m going to make this short and sweet, and that they'll still get the care they need,” Gallagher said. “But with a mask and face shield on, it’s so much harder to signal that I’m on the patient’s side. I still want to establish a relationship, build trust and normalize the process for folks.”

Blackburn Front Desk Supervisor Shane Durham has been working to make the screening process more accessible and approachable for a client population that has often had traumatizing experiences with health systems.

“We had to think about how patients would feel if they were faced with a person in a mask, gloves and face shield,” he said. “We wanted to be able to get the information we need, but in a trauma-informed way.”

Over time, the screening questions have been distilled down to make the process quicker and friendlier.

The main message is that clients can answer the questions truthfully without worrying about being turned away.

“We tell them, ‘You’re going to get the care you need — we just need to know which part of the clinic will be the best fit for you right now,’” Durham said. For patients who are seen in the COVID triage clinic, it’s reassuring to know that they will get the right care, right away.

A rare quiet moment for screener Rene Stewart outside the Old Town Recovery Center (OTRC). Screeners at Old Town Clinic, OTRC and the Blackburn Center usually interact with around 200 patients each day.

Screening allows CCC clinics to ensure that symptomatic patients receive care that is both streamlined and also separated from the rest of the clinic.“It’s like a gate that we want to help you get through – but it’s still a gate,” said Barbara Martin, Senior Director of Primary Care.

“Screeners and triage workers are helping to protect all the other patients and our staff. I have been so impressed and grateful for their flexibility and willingness to jump in when needed,” Martin said.

Lighting the Way for Healthier Communities: Around-the-Clock Care Never Stops

Aug 07, 2020

It’s National Health Center Week, an annual opportunity to show appreciation for our patients, our health services staff and our community as we care for one another. Throughout the week, we’re putting the spotlight on the resiliency of our patients and staff in adapting to the reality of COVID-19, and elevating the partnerships, ingenuity and hard work that help us keep our community safe and healthy.

• • •

At three of Central City Concern’s Federally Qualified Health Center sites, caring for patients as they heal and start on the path toward recovery happens around the clock.

Hooper Detoxification Stabilization Center, Letty Owings Center and the Recuperative Care Program provide inpatient care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These three programs serve different populations, but each faced similar challenges when it came to safely serving patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hooper Detox provides inpatient treatment for acute withdrawal from addictive substances. Letty Owings Center gives mothers and pregnant women who are recovering from substance use disorder a safe, supportive place to heal with their children. The Recuperative Care Program (RCP), located inside CCC’s Blackburn Center, gives people with serious medical conditions a safe and sanitary place to stay for continued healing once they leave the hospital.

None of these programs could close their doors during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the public health emphasis on limiting face-to-face interactions. Instead, they shared ideas and best practices in order to remain open, installed plexiglass barriers where possible, increased the frequency of sanitization and cleaning, changed how meals were prepared and served, decreased traffic in shared spaces and more.

Since March 1, Hooper Detox has supported more than 900 patients in safely withdrawing from addictive substances and transitioning to long-term treatment.

Together, the programs found ways to increase physical distance – by adding more space between patient beds at Hooper Detox and reducing the number of group counseling sessions at Letty Owings, for example – without sacrificing supportive connections.

And their work has continued.

Since March 1, Hooper Detox has supported more than 900 patients in safely withdrawing from addictive substances and transitioning to long-term treatment. Letty Owings is currently housing 25 women and their children while they take the first steps to transform their lives. RCP hasn’t slowed down either. As the only program of its kind in the state, they have supported the recuperation of nearly 200 clients since March 1 — and they continue to connect patients to stable housing once they have healed.

When new clients arrive at the Recuperative Care Program, they are greeted by friendly faces and private rooms. Having a clean, safe and secure place to recuperate from illness or injury is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jessica Savara, RCP Manager, said that fear and uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for RCP patients, who have histories of mental health challenges, trauma, substance use and homelessness, in addition to their current medical needs.

“For many of our clients at RCP, this is the first time that they can go behind doors that lock. To have that extra layer of security during COVID is so important for their well-being,” Savara said.

Clients at Hooper Detox, Letty Owings and RCP are also assured that if they do develop COVID-like symptoms, they will have a safe place to go.

“Patients get annoyed when we ask about symptoms every day, but they’re reassured too,” said Savara. “They know we’re attuned to their health, and that if they show symptoms, they won’t just be booted out.”

Instead, each program has developed isolation protocols so that patients can safely recover on-site if needed.

The ongoing successes at Hooper Detox, Letty Owings and RCP are dependent on the dedication, diligence and resilience of their staff members.

The ongoing successes at Hooper Detox, Letty Owings and RCP are dependent on the dedication, diligence and resilience of their staff members.

“We’re navigating this together, tending to our clients and to one another. I have so much respect for the folks here,” said Savara. For the patients working toward recovery and self-sufficiency at each of these programs, that culture of mutual support has never been more important.

CCC Remembers Letty Owings

Aug 06, 2020

On July 3, 2020, Letty Owings, co-founder of Central City Concern’s Letty Owings Center, passed away at her home in Edmonds, Washington.

As an English teacher in Lake Oswego, she formed bonds with students and colleagues that lasted until the end of her life. She also served as president of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

In 1989, Letty and co-founder Nancy Anderson opened the doors of the Letty Owings House. It was a building with room for eight women and ten children. In 1997, the Letty Owings Center became a program of Central City Concern. This center has provided both long-term addiction treatment and living skills to pregnant women and women with children. This is a place where mothers become sober and hopeful – able to reconnect with their children who might otherwise be placed in foster care. It has changed so many lives for the better that the second generation, the children, have become advocates for the center.

Since its inception in 1989, over a thousand families have recovered their lives at Letty Owings Center and hundreds of babies have been born drug-free. Click here to read more about the center. Here is Letty’s obituary.

All of us at Central City Concern send our heartfelt condolences to the family of Letty Owings. Her legacy lives on in all of the families who find hope and healing at the Letty Owings Center.

Supporter Highlight: Oregon Community Foundation

Jul 29, 2020

Central City Concern is very grateful to the Oregon Community Foundation for supporting our COVID-19 response efforts in multiple ways. In March, CCC received a grant of $41,500 from Oregon Community Foundation’s COVID Response Fund. Since then, we’ve received a total of $225,700 from 14 Donor Advised Funds, including the Paul and Sally McCracken Fund, the Joseph E. Weston Public Foundation and the Oshiro Family Fund. We also received very generous grants from two donor advised funds at OCF that gave anonymously.

All of this funding has been deployed to meet critical needs in response to the COVID pandemic, helping to offset increased costs associated with screening, personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning and disinfection services, and protection of vulnerable residents in CCC housing. These funds also help CCC respond to emerging needs, such as delivering food and technology for clients who need to self-quarantine, and providing rent assistance for clients experiencing a loss of income due to COVID-19.

Thank you, Oregon Community Foundation, for your continued support of CCC and our most vulnerable neighbors during these unprecedented times!

“One of our key priorities in the early, proactive stage of our COVID grantmaking was to support access to services offering hygiene and shelter for those most vulnerable to COVID, which includes people experiencing homelessness. Central City Concern has the capacity and expertise to provide critical support to people experiencing homelessness in our community, and could immediately put the funds to work supporting those most disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”
Eva Miller, Associate Program Officer, and Megan Loeb, Associate Program Officer, Economic Vitality & Health

30 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Jul 23, 2020

In this era of ramps, lifts and other hallmarks of accessible design, it is sometimes hard to remember in our near distant past, inaccessibility was the norm. Barriers abounded.

However, today is a day to celebrate.

National Disability Independence Day commemorates the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990, opening the door and breaking down barriers individuals with disabilities faced every day. Today the ADA celebrates its 30th anniversary!

The ADA is a civil rights law, prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places that are open to the public.It provides individuals with disabilities with protections similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion.

The day not only celebrates the anniversary of the ADA — it also serves several other purposes. First, the law broke down barriers individuals with disabilities faced every day. It also marked several changes that soon developed. Over time, common barriers such as narrow doors and small bathroom stalls became accessible to wheelchairs. Other examples include braille signs and crosswalks for the vision impaired. These changes improved mobility and safety.


Central City Concern (CCC) is committed to ensuring our programs and services are welcoming and accessible to all staff, patients, clients and residents— regardless of type of disability. To be respectful of the independence of people with disabilities, here are a few guidelines CCC uses:

  • Do not make assumptions about the person based on their disability. It isone small part of the person’s overall personhood and experience.
  • If it appears someone needs help, always ask permission to help first: Would you like help? If the person says, yes, then ask: How would you like me to help?
  • Always speak directly to the person. Make eye contact and address comments and questions directly to the person even if they are accompanied by a caregiver, sign language interpreter or other support person.
  • Respect the person’s privacy. Do not ask questions about the person’s disability unless you have a reason to know (such as a provider working with someone whose disability is directly related to the office visit).

Check out this helpful guide on being respectful of persons with disabilities and honoring their independence. Let’s celebrate today while continuing to advocate for more inclusive changes.

A New Model for Sobering Centers

Jul 01, 2020

For the past 40 years, CCC has worked hand in hand with the Portland community by providing critical housing, health care, recovery treatment and employment services for people affected by homelessness. In 1985, CCC assumed operational responsibility for the Sobering Station. Over the past decade, we saw an increase of clients acutely intoxicated by methamphetamines and with co-occurring severe mental health challenges.

CCC recognizes that instances of self-harm occurred in the Sobering Station. It became increasingly difficult to manage the needs of clients in crisis in a facility based not on health care design, but on a correctional design, even with timely transfer out to the Emergency Department. As the needs of clients changed and risks of self-harm increased, we took several actions, including: 1) performing a comprehensive safety review of the program; 2) revising admissions criteria; 3) restricting the use of isolation rooms to only stable patients with hygiene needs, and; 4) enhancing de-escalation training for Sobering Staff.

Even with these changes, we knew the current model for the Sobering Station was not meeting Portland’s need for effective behavioral health crisis intervention. Grounded in a correctional model, the design of the program did not meet the emerging standard to provide a safe, comfortable, voluntary space for intoxicated individuals to shelter when they need support. Last September, we had already made the decision to close this program at the end of our contract in June 2020.

Evolving problems call for evolving solutions. Beginning in September 2019, CCC shared a vision, based on the work of the National Sobering Collaborative, for how Portland can meet its need for effective behavioral health crisis intervention. We connected with multiple stakeholders including the City, County, Portland Police Bureau and local area hospitals. We suggested the Sobering Station be replaced by a Voluntary Sobering Center combined with a Crisis Stabilization Unit, independent of the Portland Police Bureau.

Sobering Centers are designed to address the needs of people who are acutely affected by substances and who need a safe space to rest and recuperate. These are not detoxification facilities and do not provide the level of care of a hospital. Sobering Centers utilize trained healthcare, peer support and lay staff in a supportive shelter setting to assess and monitor the wellness of individuals. Most Sobering Centers admit voluntary clients and will take referrals from a variety of community partners. CCC’s Sobering Station was unique, as it utilized a police involuntary hold on clients during admission.

Crisis Stabilization Units (CSUs) are designed to provide specialty behavioral health crisis stabilization requiring a more immediate response than a regularly scheduled behavioral health visit. Often thought of as an alternative to psychiatric emergency services, CSUs provide participants a secure environment, less restrictive than a hospital, but equipped to meet the medical needs of individuals who may be in a mental health or substance induced crisis, or a combination of both. People experiencing this level of crisis can present erratic behavior towards others or themselves. Individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis require a safe and therapeutic environment ideally supported with highly trained behavioral health professionals and staff skilled at complex care coordination.

It should not take getting arrested to gain access to quality healthcare programs. Just as Portland and our nation are considering changes to interventions for people in need, the closure of the Sobering Station and the review of what replaces it should contemplate both the program model and how people gain access to its services.

There is significant national research and models supporting voluntary Sobering Centers combined with a Crisis Stabilization Unit, focusing on the health needs of the clients. We hope the community can learn from our experience and leave behind what is no longer working for today’s needs, develop services that center people most impacted, and take a healthcare approach to health needs.

Celebrating One Year of Blackburn Center

Jun 30, 2020

In July 2019, Blackburn Center opened its doors to patients and job-seekers — weeks after welcoming nearly 100 residents to their new, affordable homes. This moment was the culmination of years of dreaming, planning and designing a first-of-its-kind, deeply integrated care model. Finally, CCC's signature services, from housing to health care to employment assistance, would all be available under one roof.

A group of Blackburn Center staff celebrated their first resident moving into housing in June, 2019 with a playful birthday cake. In many ways, Blackburn Center felt like a birthing process, and staff wanted to commemorate the building's first days of existence!

The hard work didn't end with opening the doors to Blackburn Center, and it continues each day as we connect with clients and deepen our roots in the East Portland community.

Since opening, Blackburn has served:

  • 214 residents
  • 1,956 health patients
  • 68 job-seekers

As we celebrate one year of Blackburn Center, we also celebrate every individual who has walked through our doors seeking housing, health care, recovery support, employment, or any combination of our services. One of those individuals is Charlette, who came to Blackburn Center as soon as it opened seeking a new path. Today, we're celebrating two anniversaries: one year of recovery for Charlette and one year of services at Blackburn Center.

Charlette was one of the first people to walk into the newly opened Blackburn Center in 2019. Now she's celebrating one year in recovery!

Charlette was homeless and addicted to heroin for six years — living in cars, sleeping in bus stops or just walking around all night. Then, six friends died of overdoses in one week. That was when she knew she had to turn her life around.

Charlette was one of the first people to walk into CCC’s new Blackburn Center. Within a single day, Charlette:

  • Saw a primary care provider, who treated her for her chronic thyroid condition 
  • Saw a psychiatric nurse practitioner, who started her on buprenorphine (also known as Suboxone) for acute opioid withdrawal 
  • Immediately filled her buprenorphine prescription via the Blackburn Pharmacy 

Over the next few weeks, Charlette saw a drug counselor and became active in groups and one-on-one counseling. She was also one of the first residents of Blackburn’s alcohol- and drugfree transitional housing.

“Having my housing and health care together in one building is a big thing!” Charlette says. “I can just go right downstairs and get my Suboxone at the pharmacy, or go to a group meeting, without ever leaving the building. That’s huge.”

Within less than six months, Charlette graduated from her outpatient program and, guided by Blackburn’s on-site employment specialist, began training as an on-call employee in CCC buildings.

“Having my housing and health care together in one building is a big thing!”

One year later and Charlette has stable housing, is working at CCC's Letty Owings Center, and has one full year of recovery under her belt.

Clearly, the full slate of services available at Blackburn Center is working well for Charlette. She says, “I’m paying back everything that CCC has given me by being a success. That’s exactly what I want to be.”

Central City Concern (CCC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency serving single adults and families in the Portland metro area who are impacted by homelessness, poverty and addictions.