Wauna Communications Specialist, Michael Murdoch, CCMH Executive Director Julia Jackson, CCMH PR and Director of Development, Hope Wirta, and Jordan Center Clinical Director, Ben Weaver, stand alongside Nick Jordan’s photo inside the Jordan Center.

Sometimes those navigating the mental health system just need a place to land with like-minded peers who understand what they’re going through and have been there themselves. They need someplace to hang out, to connect, maybe play a few games, and to socialize when their illness might otherwise tell them to isolate themselves.

With that in mind, the Jordan Center will be seeing big changes this year in an effort to expand their program and make the building more comfortable, thanks to new direction from Columbia Community Mental Health (CCMH) and community partnerships with Wauna Federal Credit Union, NAMI Oregon and donor Peggy Hammond.

The Jordan Center, located at 297 S. 1st Street, first opened in 2012 and has been a resource for CCMH clients and community members seeking support and alternatives to traditional mental health services. The center is named for Nick Jordan, a long-time, well-liked client who passed away from cancer. Hammond was his mother and is credited by those involved as being a major force in helping secure needed funds, as initial funding came from a state grant and private donors.

“Peggy would say that this center was the key to him having quality of life,” CCMH Public Relations and Director of Development, Hope Wirta said.

According to Wirta, the Jordan Center came about after several years of planning by a Consumer Council that was organized and mentored by Linda Pritchett of CCMH. The council incorporated ideas from the recovery movement, which focused on empowering mental health clients through peer support and other client-centered, non-traditional methods.

After the center opened, the peers working there splintered off and created their own organization and board, with a plan to become a private non-profit. However, this never came to fruition. So, in 2018, after spending some years floating the rent and bills, CCMH began taking a more active role in overseeing Jordan Center activities.

According to The Jordan Center’s Clinical Director, Ben Weaver, those on the Jordan Center board have now been asked to be a part of an Advisory Council, who will continue to retain input into how the center is run. CCMH Executive Director Julia Jackson said CCMH stepped in to take ownership of the center, to ensure it had the finances and the staffing it needed, but wants to keep the program in line with the same community investment model it has always been, run by Peer Support Specialists and volunteers.

“I would say we’re just in the infancy stages and have a really exciting future ahead of how we’re going to grow this center and we’re not going to do it on our own,” Jackson said. “I think there are some exciting possibilities with some of our other key partners and players in the community that we are absolutely going to approach and involve, whether on a staffing level, financial investment level, referral level – let’s get this place popping. Let’s have this be a main hub.”

Jackson envisions the program will work much in the way the St. Helens Recreation Center is operating to provide engagement for community members, with the Jordan Center’s eyes on supporting those with mental health struggles.

“This could be so much more and that’s why we really stepped in. We want to get it there, but we’re going to do it through staying true to that peer model and community investment,” Jackson said.

Wauna Federal Credit Union was the first to step in to pledge some funding, though a ballpark figure for what the work will require is still being figured out. Wauna’s Communications Specialist, Michael Murdoch, said he was originally approached for the project in the spring and, though he’d heard of The Jordan Center, he didn’t know much about it – which unfortunately, seems to be the norm.

“One of the core values for credit unions worldwide is community reinvestment,” Murdoch said. “That’s a very high-level thing for Wauna, specifically in Columbia County, because this is a place we’ve been for around 52 years. So, when it comes to something like this, I said, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ We want to be involved on any level and that’s why I’m sitting here today, because we believe in community reinvestment.”

Currently, the center is predominantly run and managed by Peer Support Specialist Kim LaPlante, who spends about 20 hours a week there. She keeps the building open, makes lunch (for which about 30 people show up regularly to eat and volunteer) and coordinates activities.

The Jordan Center will always be free, though donations are asked for, and no one will ever be turned away. It is a place open to all, whether they are clients of CCMH or simply a community member looking for someplace to connect.

Those involved have already been at work cleaning up the building, and have plans to make the place more comfortable, beginning with a facelift and some more comfortable seating. The room in the back will be open for Warmline, a state-run crisis support line run by peers with lived experience and who have gone through peer support training, like those running the center locally. The Jordan Center will donate space and the support line will provide staffing. There are also plans to add a new TV to the center, as well as new flooring.

So far, the work has been funded out-of-pocket by CCMH, but they are actively seeking financial investment and volunteers who are ready to come in and help.

The center currently offers various activities, including relaxing arts, board games, crafts, beading, beginner’s yoga, healthy cooking on a budget and a Dual Diagnosis Anonymous meeting. To quote Jackson, “Recreation is recovery.”

“Peer support is integral to recovery. Being integrated in your community, to be able to go out like the average Joe, to go engage in some games and some activity and some lunch – that is recovery and community integration,” Jackson said. “We’ll stay true to those principles and hope to be able to do it up on a whole other scale.”

Ultimately, Jackson said, she believes this kind of work is the next wave of what needs to happen in Columbia County in addressing the community’s mental health needs. What’s been happening up until now, she said, is that the behavioral health community supports the behavioral health community – and it needs to be acknowledged that this is not multiple sectors in silos.

“This needs to be a cross-sector investment and the base, tier one health of our community, which is mental health. The issue is out there – it’s happening to friends, families, neighbors. It’s not a behavioral health problem or a school district problem,” Jackson said. “This impacts all sectors, both private business and nonprofit. I think this is a really good example and it’s paving the way to show that there is already cross-sector investment in this.”

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