The first bill deadline fate of the Behavioral Justice Reinvestment Initiative (BHJRI) has been made clear. SB 973 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with the -2 amendments  on April 9 and will now be the vehicle for BHJRI, an identical BHJRI companion bill in the House Chamberwas not pursued (HB 3281). The ‘gut and stuff’ -2 amendments to SB 973 would create a BHJRI grant program and review committee through the Criminal Justice Commission (CJC). Under the bill, BHJRI’s grant program and the review committee would be separate and distinct from the original, ongoing Justice Reinvestment Initiative which was established in 2013.

Under the amended version of SB 973, the BHJRI will help build a stronger and more comprehensive system of community supports and services for individuals with mental health  and/or substance use disorders who are at risk of involvement with the criminal justice system (jails), emergency rooms, and institutions, including the Oregon State Hospital.

SB 973 calls for incorporation of a number approaches and issues as part CJC’s BHJRI grantmaking process, including: identifying and focusing on frequent users of jails; prescribing grant approval methodology; use of outcome measures and evaluation tools; behavioral health workforce challenges; and housing.

The “Behavioral Health Justice Reinvestment Grant Review Committee” that would be created under the bill would consist of 19 members the membership composition prescribed in the bill is as follows:

  • Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Director or designee;
  • Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or designee;
  • Department of Corrections Director or designee;
  • CJC Director or designee;
  • Oregon Housing and Community Services Director or designee;
  • District attorney;
  • Defense attorney;
  • Chief of police;
  • County commissioner;
  • Hospital director that provides mental health services;
  • Community mental health provider;
  • Community substance abuse provider;
  • Sheriff;
  • Representative of a tribe;
  • Two legislators; and
  • Three members of the public.

 This committee shall administer the grant program in consultation with OHA. CJC will provide staff support to the committee.

The bill is now in the Joint Way and Means Committee; the level of funding is still to be determined. There have been ongoing discussions about how BHJRI can best be connected with the Governor’s $54.4 million “Supported Housing” initiative.   

Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) Legislative Affairs Manager Andy Smith will continue to work with partners to advocate for the program as the session advances.

Contributed by: Megan Chuinard | Public Affairs Associate