Talking Mental Health With Lane County's Sr. Public Health Officer

May 8, 2019

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Over the coming weeks, KLCC will address a variety of topics surrounding mental health from a local perspective. This week, we look at how Lane County Public Health works to prevent and treat mental health issues in a diverse population.   

Dr. Patrick Luedtke is the Senior Public Health Officer for Lane County and also the Chief Medical Officer for their clinics. He says we tend to define mental health in the “disease state.”

Dr. Patrick Luedtke opens up about how Lane County is doing with mental health prevention and treatment.
Credit Tiffany Eckert

“We don’t define the normal,” Luedtke says. So we define if someone has schizophrenia or bi-polar disease or depression or one of many other types of diagnoses. And there’s a big variety of normal.”

Luedtke says normal mental health generally means “being able to do the things we like to do in life.” Of the 30,000 patients treated annually at his community health centers, Luedtke says about 10% of them benefit from integrated physical and mental health care.

The county has accepted the role of Mental Health Authority. This puts a variety of responsibilities on county health divisions.

“We have to make sure out people are safe from a mental health standpoint,” says Luedtke. “So if there is someone on the street who appears to be at risk of hurting themselves or others, we have the legal authority to take them off the street, get them care until they are stabilized.”

Lane County also has the responsibility of working with group homes, hospitals and mental health facilities—all part of a mental health system.

For all the ways his agency helps promote good mental health and treat mental illness, Dr. Luedtke still has concerns.

“It is kids in the mental health system,” he says. “We have too many stories of kids who are boarded at a hospital in a hallway or they’re spending time at our Youth Services Program (which is part of the county.) We do not have a good safety net for kids.”

Next week, we’ll check in with the Clinical Supervisor of Lane County’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.