The county jail is back on the agenda.

Commissioners and elected officials, including Sheriff Tom Bergin, Judges Phil Nelson and Cindee Matyas and District Attorney Josh Marquis, met in a work session to reopen the discussion of a new jail facility at Wednesday night's Clatsop County commission board meeting.

"The (current) jail is broke, I don't mean money ... our system is broken," Bergin said.

The current jail caps at 60, although more people can be squeezed in if necessary, but they usually don't stay for very long. On weekends especially, when the jail quickly reaches capacity and lawbreakers can't even be arrested, only cited, officers joke that offenders "beat them home from work."

"The credibility issue is huge," Marquis said. Judges may sentence someone to a year in jail, but the actual time served is often much less.

"There's a really strong consensus ... people (are) saying 'we need a new jail,'" Bergin said. They know, he added, that a person could go beat someone up, get arrested and then be back on the streets in 30 minutes because there's no room at the jail.

Besides capacity, the current jail is facing other issues. It is not up to code: seismic, ADA (handicap accessibility), and energy. Also, the number of offenders has increased and there are more women passing through the county jail than before. All of these factors combine and contribute to a larger security problem.

The county has paid for a host of studies in the years since the jail was built in 1976. In 2002, the county tried to pass a $15.7 million bond measure to help finance the construction of a 140-bed jail, but the measure failed.

Further discussions and planning resulted in nothing and county officials decided to let the issue rest for a while.

Wednesday's meeting is the first in what is expected to become a series of discussions. No decisions were made. The only conclusion those attending came to was that the county still needs a new jail facility and the sooner planning can begin again, the better.

Officials are working from a study completed in April 2008 that combined past jail studies and provided the county with a comprehensive list of recommendations.

It is "the study to end further jail studies," County Manager Duane Cole said.

LifeWorks NW replacementIn other action, Wednesday, commissioners learned more details of how Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare will be taking on the local addiction treatment services contract handled until recently by LifeWorks Northwest.

The commissioners approved the transfer during the regular session at Wednesday night's board meeting.

CBH is the provider of contracted mental health services for Clatsop County. LifeWorks and CBH will be working together over the next few months to transition services over to the new agency.

"Our biggest goal is to make the transition as seamless as possible for the clients," said CBH Business Manager Sumuer Watkins. "I think it will be most difficult for employees."

The hope, Watkins said, is that they will be able to bring the entire LifeWorks staff in Clatsop County to CBH.

"We have no intention of not bringing people," she said. "But we're still working on the numbers."

LifeWorks announced in February that it would be leaving the area by July 1.

County officials worked to find a replacement for the agency that serves 250 clients in the county and provides various programs including outpatient treatment and youth and family prevention services. State funding pays for 40 treatment slots with LifeWorks.

The decision to use CBH makes sense on several levels.

Oregon's state strategic plan is that addiction services should be integrated with mental health services. Both LifeWorks' and CBH's clinical staff have people trained in dual diagnosis: able to identify and take steps to treat the combined addiction and mental health issues many clients experience.

"It can be very holistic," Watkins said. "We can have both services available in the same place. ... The percentage of people with addiction and mental issues is staggering."

Both CBH and LifeWorks have offices in the Seaside and Astoria area and, after the transition, there will still be an office in each area.

CBH hopes to accomplish a complete transition well before July 1, when LifeWorks is scheduled to leave.

"But we don't know the challenges we're going to face," Watkins said. "Something comes up every day."