Scott Snedecor was an advocate for people with mental illness, with alcoholism and with addiction, with trauma, and for people with traumatic brain injuries. He was born here in Portland in 1952, graduated from Lincoln High School, And spent most of his career working deep in the public mental health industry as a peer advocate. Scott had a wide circle of friends, hobbies and interests. He was charismatic, affable, generous, goofy, and usually disheveled. His office, his car, and often his house was an impressive mess. I remember talking with him about placement for a patient being discharged from the state hospital for being clinically challenging, Scott said “Mike’s like me. He doesn’t need a case manager, he needs a valet.”
Scott Snedecor died on Christmas Eve of 2019 after a long illness caused in part by the medications he was told to take for his psychiatric illness. Scott was a hard worker at his self care and lived relatively medication free for the last 25 years of his life.
I met Scott in about 1996 when he worked at Portland’s first publicly funded drop in center for people with mental illness which was managed by people with mental illness. The peer movement had not yet really begun. But Scott, and other peers like Mike Hlebechuk, Kevin Fitts, and Donita Diamata – and a lot of non peers – were forging ahead. The place was called “Mind Empowered” and it was a sanctuary for people who lived in small rooms, who were symptomatic, who were an easy target for a predatory society. Scott treated everyone equally, welcoming, inviting, friendly. His message was dead serious – treat these people with kindness and respect. It was not a PC message at the time. “These people” were to be locked up, kept away from children, forcibly medicated, surgically muted. Scott delivered his dead serious message with good cheer and modeled recovery, talked about his own recovery – so that others could talk about their own.
It’s hard to make friends later in life. Scott was a master friend-maker. He was friendly. He needed more, could use more, could keep up with more. He might not know everything about you, but if you were Scott’s friend, he knew something special about you. He knew the reason he liked you. And he’d tell you. And then you’d want him to be your friend.
The lesson learned from Scott – The key to remaining a great advocate is to not be an adversary.
Scott was a peer advocate at Multnomah County during the Mental Health and Addictions Services Division reform years – about 1998 to 2003, and was one of the few survivors of that period. He was the first peer trainer for the Portland Police Bureau’s CIT program. Then he spent many years working for the state hospital, trying to spring the unsprung, helping patients who were seriously ill get ready to transition out of the hospital. He worked here at the Portland Campus – the building which is now Unity – and for a while at the Salem Campus.
Scott had many friends and was close with his family. He loved dogs and motorcycles and fast food and music and traveling. A lot of people are missing Scott Snedecor. So we give the 2020 Oregon Advocacy Award to Scott Snedecor.