Oregon Mental Hospital Should Be Expanded, According to the Departing Health Authority Chief

Oregon Mental Hospital: This autumn, the number of Oregonians facing criminal charges but being unable to comprehend them due to psychosis reached what one state official described as “record levels,” which is complicating attempts to shorten the waiting at the Oregon State Hospital.

Oregon Mental Hospital Should Be Expanded

The Oregon Health Authority’s departing director, Patrick Allen, warned legislators that the wait list is “moving in the wrong way.”

His comments came at a meeting of the House Interim Committee on Behavioral Health last week. They were supported by data demonstrating a noticeable increase in monthly cases of those declared too mentally ill to help and assist in their own defense. Compared to what authorities had anticipated, there have been 20 more help and assistance patients entering the system each month this autumn.

The waitlist for the Oregon State Hospital is “moving in the wrong direction,” according to Patrick Allen, the departing head of the Oregon Health Authority, who testified before legislators.

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Regarding the number of times patients who belong at the state hospital spend in jail without access to care while they wait to be admitted, Oregon has been sued. According to earlier legal rulings, inmates who require mental health care have a constitutional right to admission to the Oregon State Hospital within seven days of their arrest. Additionally, at least one person in the queue passed while in custody this year.

To try to resolve the case, health authority authorities consented in September to boost turnover and speed up admissions. They have to release individuals more quickly to do that.

A court decision issued on August 29 set a limit on hospital stays at the mental health facility at 90 days for misdemeanor-related charges and one year for felony-related charges.

Oregon Mental Hospital Should Be Expanded
Oregon Mental Hospital Should Be Expanded

The institution must no longer accept patients who have been civilly committed, which is when a person who has not been charged with a crime is required to receive psychiatric treatment, with the exception of those who are judged harmful to others. There are now no beds available in the state’s only public mental hospital for the roughly 500 persons who are subject to civil commitment each year.

The health authority began implementing the new strategy in September, and thus far, it has largely succeeded in achieving its goals for accelerating discharges. But from 86 individuals in September to 104 people in November, the number of persons waiting to be admitted has increased.

The queue for public hospitals would have been slashed in half by the end of November and almost erased by February if everything had gone as planned.

Instead, there were 95 new “aid and assist” orders issued to 85 new persons in October, and 95 new “aid and assist” orders issued to 95 new people in November.

Should the State Hospital of Oregon Grow?
Rep. Rob Nosse, the leader of the committee, asked Allen at the hearing last week, “If you could wave a magic wand, what would you do to improve this situation?”

Allen said, “More of everything.”

Allen claimed that far too many people end up in the state hospital as a result of their involvement with law enforcement, which makes addiction treatment and mental illness rehabilitation more difficult. Allen stated that in order to address the root of the issue, the state needs additional community mental health resources.

“What do we lack? To prevent it from turning into a law enforcement interaction, it’s probably a combination of every component of the system at the local level, he added.

In addition, Allen supported a more contentious proposal: increasing the capacity of the Oregon State Hospital.

An aerial view of the Oregon State hospital complex reveals a long, curved driveway and an antique red-brick structure with a white cupola.
Despite a contentious release strategy designed to provide more places for arriving patients, the queue at Oregon State Hospital is growing.

Oregon State Hospital’s Generosity

He echoed the same sentiment expressed last week by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler when he stated, “Nobody wants to hear this, but we definitely need extra state hospital beds as well.” Wheeler declared that it was time to relax the requirements for civil commitments in Oregon, a move that would necessitate increasing the availability of mental health care there.

Legislators may find it difficult to support the expansion of the state hospital system because no federal Medicaid funds are used to pay for any of the care provided there because of a long-standing federal provision that forbids states from using Medicaid funds to treat patients in institutions.

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The most important factor, according to Allen, is expanding the ability to deliver “hospital-level care,” not necessarily increasing the capacity of the two current Oregon State Hospital sites in Junction City and Salem. I don’t have an opinion on the current situationβ€”100 beds here, 10 beds thereβ€”but it is one thing that has to be examined, Allen added.

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