Umatilla County Board of Commissioners approved a program Wednesday to provide mental health workers for the Hermiston School District. The program, however, is contingent upon funding from the Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Initiative.

Amy Ashton-Williams, the county’s human services director, in a memo to commissioners explained her department has been negotiating with GOBHI to provide the Hermiston School District’s mental health program.

“We are currently working out the exact dollar amount that GOBHI will fund for this program,” according to her memo, “knowing it will be a minimum of $300,000.”

The memo stated Lifeways provided the services for the past five years while the school district voiced “concerns about the level of care provided and the consistency of such care.” The district wants a program that “emulates the care and consistency” of the county’s Community Access for Resource Effectiveness program.

The $300,000 would pay for a mental health services program manager with an annual salary and benefits of $93,000 and three mental health associates, with annual salary and benefits of $68,000-$74,000. Human services also wants GOBHI to provide another $135,000 to buy three vehicles and pay for an additional substance abuse counselor who would split time between the Hermiston School District and county human services.

The county does not plan to advertise the openings until GOBHI provides the funding. Jennifer Blake, the county’s human resources manager, told commissioners during the public meeting Wednesday in Pendleton the county incurs no cost from the program.

Commissioners Larry Givens and Bill Elfering voted in favor of the proposal. Commissioner George Murdock is out of town.

The county also approved the purchase of a 2001 paint truck for $8,500 for the road department. County public works director Tom Fellows told the board his department pays $6,000-$10,000 a year to use Morrow County’s truck. Buying the used vehicle from the state’s surplus would save the county money in the long run, he said, and the truck also comes with $10,000 worth of replacement parts and paint equipment.

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