City, County to Team Up to Hire Peer Mentor for Repeat Lawbreakers

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The Hermiston City Council passed a resolution this week to contribute its share of the national opioid settlement toward hiring someone to work with repeat offenders of the criminal justice system.

Both the city of Hermiston and Umatilla County receive money annually as part of the settlement. Hermiston receives about $30,000 a year and will do so for approximately 15 years, said Hermiston City Manager Byron Smith.

The intent is to hire a peer mentor to work with “frequent fliers,” as Municipal Court Judge Cameron Bendixsen referred to them.

Smith noted that $30,000 isn’t enough to fill the position, so the city will enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Umatilla County which will allow the county to contribute a portion of its settlement money to fund the position. The county is doing the same thing with the city of Pendleton.

Smith said the county has an agreement with Community Counseling Solutions to provide the peer mentor.

Mayor Dave Drotzmann said hiring a peer mentor is an “excellent” use of the funds.

“$30,000 doesn’t go very far in hiring staff, so I’m super happy that the county has agreed to collaborate with us,” Drotzmann said. “Hopefully, we can transition some of those folks that have maybe some opioid addictions back to being productive members of our communities.”

Bendixsen agreed, saying it’s an idea that “can help push someone in the right direction.”

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