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Umatilla County acts to address mental health crisis services

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

ROCKit grant program helps community identify & implement coordinated actions

Pendleton, Oregon: October 18, 2021: Umatilla County, Oregon has taken a series of dedicated actions that both the county government and local experts believe will increase access to critical mental health care and services for individuals and their families in the county.

“Mental health was a concern for Umatilla County before COVID, exacerbated during COVID, and will remain so post-COVID,” said George Murdock, County Commissioner and Board Chair of Umatilla County.

“The ROCKit program helped us launch this mental health initiative. Working with a dynamic group of community leaders and changemakers, we were able to both identify a range of available assets and resources, and commit to action. The time for change in our community is right now.”

ROCKit stands for Resource Organizer for Communities Kit (ROCKit) and involves a series of facilitated convenings where diverse participants from the community create an asset map, capacity inventory, and action commitments. As a result of working on mental health access, Umatilla County has:

  • Selected a new provider, Community Counseling Solutions, to deliver and oversee more integrated mental health and substance abuse programs in the county

  • Implemented strategies to address the intersection between law enforcement and mental health, including plans to reduce the role of law enforcement in addressing mental health crisis situations

  • Assured that equity is an integral part of the discussion surrounding mental health and substance abuse by identifying and using a broad array of resources representing diverse populations to communicate and gather feedback, such as the Pendleton Community Action Coalition (Facebook group) and Radio La Ley

  • Created a comprehensive inventory of community entities that can or do play a role in addressing mental health concerns

  • Applied for funding from the Oregon Health Authority to assist with the planning and development of behavioral housing, a need identified during the ROCKit process

Additional potential actions were also identified that would further improve mental health services and accessibility within Umatilla County. Those included:

  • Creating a cadre of peer teen mentors using an existing texting service

  • Developing new tools for mental health workers designed to help better deescalate mental health crises

  • Exploring the creation of an app that will provide comprehensive information about mental health services and supports in the county

  • Meeting with school administrators to explore the role athletic coaches can play in preventing and supporting teens in crisis

  • Exploring avenues for the creation of a comprehensive one-stop shop for mental health service delivery

“I could not be prouder of this group,” said John Shafer, County Commissioner, Umatilla County. “From the first time we met, their dedication and the innovative ideas they brought to the table have been tremendous."

"I am confident that this initiative will continue to turbocharge our ability as a county to meet the mental health needs of our communities.”

The meeting series was part of a grant-funded pilot program called Community ROCKit, a 90-day roadmap for asset mapping and community engagement designed to help communities rebuild from the pandemic. Umatilla County was selected as the first location in the country to implement Community ROCKit.

“ROCKit was inspired by the belief that communities have a deep well of ingenuity and innovation that will help address the impacts of COVID-19,” said Christine Bechtel, co-founder of X4 Health – the organization that designed and coordinates the program.

“Umatilla County is a shining example: They discovered and catalogued a surprising trove of existing resources, and found ways to configure and combine those resources to create vibrant solutions to increase mental health access for people in crisis.”

Funded by the Morris-Singer Foundation, Community ROCKit is available at no cost to selected communities. Additional free resources to help communities take the guesswork out of recovery planning are available at:


About Participants

Participants were selected based on representation of diverse perspectives, non-traditional partnerships, and willingness to take action toward improving mental health services and support within Umatilla County.

Participant list:

  • Anna Browne, OSU Extension Umatilla County

  • Erin Carpenter, Eastern Oregon Workforce

  • Aaron Duff, Milton - Freewater United School District

  • Rosanne Ernst, CAPECO

  • Travis Eynon, Umatilla County/Hermiston Police Department

  • Kenny Franks, Umatilla Corrections Division

  • Jenni Galloway, Umatilla County CARE Program

  • Jose Garcia, New Horizon Program

  • Kenzie Hansell, Weston-McEwen High School

  • Amber Henderson, Lifeways

  • Annie Kimbrel, CAPECO

  • Thad Labhart, Community Counseling Solutions

  • Roberta Lavadour, Pendleton Center for the Arts

  • Jim Littlefield, Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office

  • Cathy Lloyd, Stepping Stones

  • Ami Muilenburg, Milton - Freewater United School District

  • George Murdock, Umatilla County/Commissioner

  • Dale Primmer, Umatilla County/Community Corrections

  • Norma Ramirez Gonzalez, Euvalcree

  • Mark Royal, Umatilla County/Human Services

  • John Shafer, Umatilla County/Commissioner

  • Briana Spencer, Confederated Tribe Umatilla

  • Susie Stuvland, CAPECO

  • J’Shon Thompson, Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center

  • Robert Walder, Umatilla County/Land Use & Planning

  • Kim Weissenfluh, Umatilla County/Developmental Disabilities

  • Mayra Zapeda, Umatilla County CARE Program

For more information about participants or to join the effort:

About Community ROCKit:

Community ROCKit is a grant-funded program designed to help communities develop solutions to problems created or exacerbated by COVID. It is being piloted in 3 communities during 2021, the first of which was Umatilla County, Oregon.

ROCKit aims to empower community leaders to unite across sectors, using local relationships as rocket fuel for mapping out valuable resources on hand in the community, ensuring those resources are coordinated and developing new solutions to local issues selected by the community. ROCKit is powered by X4 Health and funded by the Morris-Singer Foundation, a family foundation committed to health and a healthy democracy.

About Umatilla County:

Situated in Eastern Oregon, Umatilla County is home to more than 80,000 individuals and 3,200 acres of beautiful land. The county has three elected commissioners and is most well-known for the Pendleton Round Up, a major annual rodeo.

Media Contacts:

Community ROCKit Umatilla County

Sarah Wood John Shafer 541-276-7111


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