Oregon DOC agrees to curtail isolation of people with serious mental illness

SolitaryWatch, Jan. 19, 2016

Isolation cellOregon corrections officials have agreed to reduce the isolation of people with serious mental illness in the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) at Oregon State Penitentiary, settling over a year of discussions with Disability Rights Oregon (DRO), the state’s federally designated Protection and Advocacy System.

The agreement, signed January 8, has the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for those in the BHU (pictured above), a unit designed to house 48 of the most severely mentally ill men in in the state prison system. Ostensibly meant to manage and treat those whose behaviors are known to be driven by mental health problems, including self-harm and suicide attempts, the BHU has been under scrutiny by DRO since 2014.

READ the agreementMemorandum of Understanding between ODOC and DRO 2016 (PDF, 1.2MB)

In May 2015, DRO issued a damning report on the conditions of the unit, finding a persistent pattern of long-term solitary confinement in windowless 6 x 10-foot cells, a lack of mental health services and “a culture that promotes unnecessary violence and retaliation by correctional staff.”

READ the report – “Behind the Eleventh Door (PDF, 2.8MB)

While the report was publicly met with derision by the Oregon Department of Corrections – in a letter dated May 1, 2015, ODOC Director Colette Peters said it “appears to be more sensational rather than fact-based” – subsequent discussions over reform were evidently productive.

“I am proud of the long-standing relationship and collaboration between [ODOC] and DRO to develop this Memorandum of Understanding,” said Peters in announcing the agreement. “This is an important step in improving treatment options for those in [ODOC] custody with serious mental illness and improving their chances for success upon their release.”

The MOU, among many things, provides for over 20 hours of guaranteed out of cell time a week for those held in the BHU. Ten hours of this time will include classes and treatment programs, and ten hours will be unstructured, allowing for out-of-cell meals, phone calls and physical exercise. Other key components of the agreement include making good-faith efforts to hire and retain “sufficient” mental health staff, ensuring “reasonable access to a psychiatric provider,” and improving training of security and clinical staff to deal “with adults in custody with mental illness, including interviewing techniques, medication side effects, and crisis intervention.”

“When prisoners get an opportunity to spend time outside their cells engaged in constructive activities, they are more likely to be healthy, more likely to learn how to cope with their illness, and more likely to succeed when released,” said DRO Executive Director Bob Joondeph. In light of the substantial and growing international consensus that solitary confinement is especially harmful to those with mental health problems, the set of reforms agreed to would go far in preventing the well-documented abuses in the BHU.

“There’s a lot of miserable, unhappy people howling, banging their heads on the walls,” said Joel Greenberg, coauthor of DRO report. “They’re locked up 23 hours a day, it’s dark, the TV is not even visible and for people who are hearing voices, TV or music are the only way to drown out those things. Then you have the constant cell extractions. There’s just no way out of it, a lot of serious self-harm, suicide attempts, almost everyone in the BHU would prefer to be elsewhere.”

The report features the stories of several men in the BHU. One man, known to engage in self-harm “as a desperate strategy to get out of his cell or compel medical or mental health attention,” has often been subjected to abuse. As the DRO reported, “the security-driven response to his self-harming behaviors is a mixture of physical force and the imposition of further isolation and deprivation.” For as long as 18 days at a time, he would held on “dry cell status” in which water would be turned off in his cell and personal belongings taken away. ODOC policy only allows for dry cell status up to 72 hours.

Other stories include that of “Caleb Freeman,” a pseudonym, who had been in the BHU since 2011, with brief periods in the Mental Health Infirmary and Disciplinary Segregation Unit. Like many in the unit, he too was subjected to uses of force, including tasering. The report also includes the accounts staff in the unit, many of whom who made it clear that balance of power in the unit was mostly in favor of the guards, rather than mental health staff. One clinician reportedly told DRO: “Don’t upset security. If you do, you can’t do your job.”

With the set of reforms ODOC has promised to work on, such imbalances in power can be corrected and improve the prospects for mental health workers to actually help those in the unit. Critical will be ensuring the ODOC actually follows through on this, which in part depends on funding and support from the state. “ODOC’s commitment to these aims includes a commitment to take reasonable steps to obtain funding, when needed, from the Oregon Legislative Assembly to accomplish this plan,” the agreement reads. “If adequate funding is not authorized, ODOC will assess which of these goals, if any, it will pursue.”

It appears further reforms in the Oregon prison system are also on the way.  “[ODOC] is continually evaluating its policies and procedures, including those specific to BHU,” agency spokesperson Elizabeth Craig told Solitary Watch via email, noting that the department is participating in the Vera Institute’s Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative. “As part of this initiative, we are receiving two years of technical assistance with the goal of safely and effectively reducing our use of special housing.”

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Mental illness on the streets of rural Oregon

Mental illness on the streets – East Oregonian, February 5, 2016

At one time the nation’s most severely mentally ill were locked up in mental hospitals, often against their will. Now they wander our streets.

That’s how it seems to many law enforcement officers these days as they spend more and more of their time dealing with people in crisis.

“It’s much more common than people think,” said Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston. “My officers see mental illness daily, if not hourly.”

When someone in crisis endangers themselves or others, officers must take action. Sometimes that means getting the person evaluated by a professional or hauling him or her to jail. Other times, they use words to persuade or soothe and de-escalate.

Most of the time, the interactions end peacefully, but officers likely will see the person again — maybe even later that day.

The interactions have almost endless variation: A person lying on a city street, getting aggressive, urinating in a public place, hallucinating, in the grip of a suicidal depression or causing a multitude of other scenarios that range from simply strange to severely dangerous.

On a recent day, Pendleton Police Officer Shelly Studebaker stopped her patrol car to chat with a man who stood on a traffic island at the confluence of Frazer and Emigrant Avenues. He was gesturing at the traffic and fixated on a truck parked across the busy street on the gravel beside the Interstate 84 onramp. With some conversation, Studebaker learned he was fretting that someone would run into the vehicle. She soothed his worries and the man walked away.

Studebaker is one of a growing number of police officers who have completed Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) to hone their street-counselor skills. At the week-long course, she learned the basics of behavioral health and an array of de-escalation techniques.

“It’s taking time to talk to people and connecting on a personal basis,” Studebaker said. “If we can come to a positive conclusion, it establishes trust and saves time later.”

Sometimes, though, the situation is simply beyond the reach of communication skills.

On New Year’s Eve of 2012, a man named Greg Shafer robbed the Hermiston branch of Community Bank. Instead of stashing the loot in a bag, Shafer tossed some money into the air on his way out of the bank, leaving a trail as he crossed the road to the liquor store where he cut to the front of the line to purchase an expensive bottle of whiskey and a cigar. Liquor store video shows him tossing more money as he catches sight of a police officer through the window. As two Hermiston officers enter the store, Shafer draws what looks like a semiautomatic handgun (actually a BB gun) and points it at the officers. They fire five shots. Shafer slumps to the floor. He died later that night.

Most interactions are less serious, but the sheer number of them are taking their toll. The Pendleton Police Department tracks calls for service involving mental illness and has experienced a steady uptick — about 160 percent — in the past five years.

Police have become first-line responders, said Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts. The job is often a frustrating one. Options are limited. Many times a mentally ill person ends up in jail on charges of disorderly conduct or trespassing.

“Jails are not a place for a person with mental illness,” Roberts said. “Jails aren’t set up to deal with that population, but you know while they are there, they’ll be safe and the community will be safe.”

Others are evaluated by psychiatric professionals in a hospital setting, but only the most severe end up being committed to state care — the majority end up back on the streets. Then they become mired in court appearances and fines.

“We put them on a merry-go-round and we spin it,” he said. “Every time they are released from jail or go back to jail, it’s another spin. Pretty soon it’s spinning so hard they can’t get off.”

With so much mental instability on the streets, law enforcement officers are ready for anything.

“They never know what they’re getting into on any particular call,” Edmiston said. “They have no clue what might be on board chemically and what’s going on mentally. They have to rely on intuition and training to kick in.”

One option in Umatilla County is the Pendleton Creek Crisis Recovery Center, a five-bed facility run by Lifeways on Westgate where people having a mental crisis can recover in a calm environment. Police can bring people or they can come on their own. Admittance is voluntary, though, and the place isn’t set up to deal with those under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Up until about the mid-1990s, things were different, Roberts said. Officers in this area could drive people in crisis to the now-defunct Blue Mountain Recovery Center.

“Residential folks were upstairs and there was a detox center in the basement. A staff member would meet us at the back door, take (the mentally ill individual) in and a psychiatrist would evaluate the person on the spot,” Roberts said. “That was much more efficient than what we’ve evolved to today.”

Drugs and alcohol are a complicating factor and so interwoven, Roberts said. Substance abuse can trigger mental illness or be a symptom. It’s chicken or egg — which came first, he said.

“Mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction — a lot of professionals will look at that and say it’s all mental illness,” Roberts said. “Oregon looks at it as two separate issues and deals with them accordingly with different agencies.”

Another hitch is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a privacy rule that prevents mental health providers from sharing patient information with law enforcement, said both Edmiston and Roberts. Other barriers come from courts and other agencies. Both chiefs wish everyone could just get out of their silos and join together to work toward a holistic solution.

“All service providers are running the same race, but in different lanes,” Roberts said. “It should be a relay. It should be a baton pass from beginning to end. Instead, we’re walking on each other and pointing fingers.”

There is something of an urban-rural divide as far as resources for officers and mentally ill people on the streets.

“In Portland, they have resources and mechanisms we don’t have,” Roberts said. “They have the practitioners and professionals — they can do those handoffs.”

Edmiston admits feeling frustrated and abandoned at times.

“The bottom line is there seems to be this push with legislators at the state and federal level to push more and more onto first responders,” Edmiston said. “When things go bad, law enforcement is the first to get blamed.”

Roberts sees no quick fix.

“Everything keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger and has so many layers,” Roberts said. “I think people look at it and say that is such a big issue — we don’t know how or where to attack it.”

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Justice Department wants PPB to abolish controversial ’48-hour rule,’ file use of force reports immediately

Daily Journal, Feb. 3, 2016

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Hager

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Hager

The U.S. Department of Justice wants Portland police to require officers who use deadly force to file immediate accounts of what occurred in use of force reports.

Justice Department lawyers are meeting next week with Multnomah County prosecutors and Portland city attorneys to try to get them on board.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Hager said the Justice Department’s 2012 settlement with the city calls for the Police Bureau to review policies governing on-scene statements from officers in deadly force encounters and make them consistent with professional standards.

“This is something that’s a priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to get resolved,” Hager told City Council members last week.

The Police Bureau now requires officers who witness the use of force to file such reports and provide immediate statements to investigators. The reports include the officer’s description of what occurred.

The change would help address longstanding concerns that Justice officials, city-hired police consultants and community members have voiced about the controversial “48-hour rule,” which is part of the police union contract and requires internal affairs investigators to give officers at least two days’ notice before interviewing them after a deadly shooting or death in custody.

The city settlement stems from a federal investigation that found Portland police engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force against people with mental illness or perceived to have mental illness. The negotiated settlement calls for a wide range of changes to Portland policies, training and oversight.

Police Chief Larry O’Dea last week repeatedly told the City Council that the bureau was acting at the direction of the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office in choosing not to compel officers who use deadly force to talk to investigators right away.

“It really is their investigation,” O’Dea said.

Multnomah County Chief Deputy District Attorney Don Rees said this week that his office is involved in “ongoing conversations on this topic.” The DA’s Office is particularly interested in “preserving the integrity” of any criminal investigation into an officer’s use of force, Rees said.

City-hired consultants, in a report presented to the council last week, recommended yet again that the bureau enter into negotiations with the rank-and-file union to get rid of the 48-hour restriction.

In a written response, O’Dea said he agreed with the recommendation, yet said the contract isn’t up for renewal until June 2017.

Further, he sought to make clear that the 48-hour restriction pertains only to internal affairs investigations, in which an officer’s actions are examined to see if they follow bureau policy and training. The chief said the 48-hour restriction doesn’t prevent officers from voluntarily making statements to detectives leading a criminal investigation into a shooting.

But in Portland, it has the same effect: Detectives routinely ask officers involved in a shooting for an immediate statement or walk-through at the scene as part of the criminal investigation, but are routinely denied. And often, the officers aren’t interviewed by police detectives until at least two days after a shooting.

If detectives ordered an officer to provide a statement in a criminal inquiry, then the District Attorney’s Office couldn’t use what the officer said in any prosecution against him or her, the chief and detective division commander said.

“Once we compel (a statement), that creates some level of immunity for the officer who used that level of force,” Detective Division Cmdr. George Burke said. “We don’t want to do anything that is going to cause a problem with any admissibility (of statements) for the criminal investigation.”

But Justice Department officials don’t think the filing of use-of-force reports by police involved in fatal shootings would contaminate any criminal investigation.

“We feel the law is on the side of allowing some limited, routine reporting,” Hager told council members.

Case law supports the argument that use-of-force reports are part of a police officer’s routine job assignment, he said.

The 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Garrity v. New Jersey held that an incriminating statement made by a police officer is inadmissible against the officer in a criminal trial if the officer made the statement under the threat that the officer would lose his job if the officer invoked the right to remain silent. The court concluded that, under those narrow circumstances, the statement would be considered coerced because the officer was denied any meaningful opportunity to assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, according to federal Justice officials.

Based on the court decision and subsequent case law, Garrity wasn’t meant to apply to officers’ routine documentation of their activities, including, for example, the completion of use-of-force reports or discussing the use of force with department officials, according to Hager and Justice Department lawyers.

Cases from across the country have held that routine reporting is part of a public employee’s job and isn’t considered a compelled statement, Hager said. Something is only considered a compelled statement when officers face the threat of losing their jobs, not simply the possibility of discipline, he said.

“Attempting to provide blanket Garrity protection for every use of force statement is bad policy and goes beyond what is required by law or necessary to protect officers’ Fifth Amendment rights,” the Justice Department wrote in a technical memo to Seattle police more than four years ago. “Use-of-force statements are an invaluable training and officer-safety tool, and they are critical for maintaining accountability and managing risk.”

Michael Gennaco, a consultant with the California-based OIR Group hired by the city, told the City Council that many other major city police departments are able to avoid any contamination of their criminal investigations when internal affairs investigators compel officers in shootings to provide a statement to them about what happened on the same day of the event.

“The concern about the risk that somehow the obtaining of that compelled statement could then jeopardize a criminal investigation in this context has never happened in the history of mankind with regard to officer-involved shootings,” Gennaco told the council.

At other agencies, the officers give compelled statements in an interview room with internal affairs investigators, walled off and protected from any piece of the detectives’ criminal investigation, he said. That’s never presented to the district attorney’s office, so there’s no risk in contaminating the criminal investigation, Gennaco said.

Waiting for officers’ statements for more than 48 hours runs the risk of the account being contaminated by outside influences, he said. The officer may hear talk about the encounter in the police locker room, get information from a lawyer or witness a video of the incident.

Obtaining an immediate statement, in contrast, “provides you with an insight in the officer’s state of mind right after he’s used it,” Gennaco said.

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Sen. Prozanski drops bill to restrict gun rights of Oregonians accused of mental illness

KATU-2, Feb. 1, 2016

Oregon lawmakers discuss a proposed bill

Oregon lawmakers discuss a proposed bill

Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-South Lane and North Douglas counties, said Monday that he will no longer press forward this year with a bill intended to place holds on gun buys based on people’s mental health.

In a news release Prozanski said there wouldn’t be enough time to get Senate Bill 1551 where it should be during this month’s short legislative session.

“After conversations with various individuals and organizations … I remain concerned that the 35 days allotted for the short session is not enough time to complete necessary work on the bill,” Prozanski said in the release.

The bill would have allowed doctors, mental health professionals, teachers and even immediate family members to report someone with a mental health problem, who they believe is a danger to themselves or others, to the Oregon State Police.

The person then would not be allowed to buy a gun for 30 days.

Prozanski said he still supports keeping guns out of the hands of those “who pose an immediate threat to themselves or others” but he said he doesn’t believe there is enough time this year to “address the potential issues or unintended consequences” of his bill.

He said he will continue to work on the idea and will consider legislation for introduction during the state’s longer session in 2017.

This year’s short legislative session got underway Monday.

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Funding cuts could displace many with mental illness who live in adult foster homes

Statesman Journal, Jan. 31, 2016

About a dozen foster care providers held signs in front of the Oregon State Capitol on Tuesday, protesting a new payment system that they say would force closures.

About a dozen foster care providers held signs in front of the Oregon State Capitol on Tuesday, protesting a new payment system that they say would force closures.

Mentally ill residents of adult foster homes across Oregon are at risk of being displaced as providers face steep rate cuts.

The cuts, negotiated by the Oregon Health Authority and SEIU 503, were necessary to keep the program sustainable, officials said. The new rates became effective Jan. 1.

However, providers say the rate change amounts to a 60 percent decrease in payments, making it financially impossible for some of them to stay open.

The impact

Here is how the rate cuts are affecting one provider of mental health adult foster home services in Marion County:

Client Old
rate
New
rate
Diff.
A. $2,433.33 $2,277 -156.33
B. $4,928.04 $3,195 -1,733.04
C. $4,911.04 $3,058 -1,853.04
D. $4,839.04 $2,277 -2,562.04
E. $5,334.13 $3,339 -1,995.13
F. $2,433.33 $2,200 -233.33
G. $5,132.81 $3,058 -2,074.81
H. $5,132.81 $3,339 -1,793.81
I. $2,815.60 $3,058 +242.40
Total:  37,960.13  25,801  -12,159.13

The owners of the homes are hoping lawmakers will respond to prevent that from happening. A hearing has been scheduled in the Senate Committee on Human Services and Early Childhood for Feb. 24.

Several years ago, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reassessed how the payment rates for residents in adult foster homes were being determined. They began using the Level of Care Utilization System, but the program began running at at deficit, OHA spokeswoman Patricia Feeny said in an email.

Because of the shortfall, OHA and the union negotiated a different rate-setting system: the Level of Service Inventory.

Feeny said the new system is more relevant to determining the type, level and frequency of care each resident requires, and the payments that should be paired with the care.

But providers say the Level of Service Inventory doesn’t address key aspects of care that their mentally ill residents need, including issues related to addictions, delusions or whether they pose risk of harm to themselves and others.

“OHA and the union both recognize the need for sustainability: this change is best for the program and its clients, and best for Oregon,” Feeny wrote in the email.

Mike Murdoch and his wife, Jen Murdoch, own five mental health adult foster homes in Marion County, housing 25 clients. He said the reduced rates are causing the business to run at about a $12,000 per month deficit.

“The money they are proposing to give us will not pay the bills,” Murdoch said.

Not only would the Murdochs have to displace 25 mentally ill clients, some of their employees who live in the homes would also be without jobs and shelter.

Sherri Jemison, who serves nine mental health clients in two homes, said she’d also have to give notice to her residents. Collectively, the nine clients will be funded $12,159.13 less in the new rate system, she said.

With clients who require one-on-one supervision, there is no way to make the new rates work, she said.

Holly Schmitz, 59, is one of Jemison’s residents and was the first to be asked to leave.

She found housing in Silverton, she said.

“I’m very sad,” she said of leaving Jemison’s home. “I’m very happy here.”

Teri Petre has two homes with capacity for 10 mental health clients. She said her plan is to shut down one home, then change the licensing of the other home to care for older and disabled adults.

Between Petre, Jemison and the Murdochs, 43 out of 73 available mental health beds in the county are at risk.

Robert Devenberg, who owns four homes and care for 24 mental health clients, said he is financially strong enough to operate on the new rates for one year.

But after that, “We will be looking at 24 mentally ill people without that housing option,” he said.

About 60 providers across the state have organized around Petre, their unofficial point person, to seek assistance from lawmakers.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, who has championed mental health as one of his causes, said the providers’ concerns have been heard.

“I feel optimistic we’ll find a way” to address them during the February legislative session, he said, also noting that a new economic forecast is coming up.

Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, who chairs the Senate human services committee, said she was especially concerned about how the new rate would impact clients.

“If there’s a change in rates that affect the ability of providers to serve the individual, where is that individual going to go to ensure their safety?” she said.

Scott Jackson, behavioral health division director for the Marion County Health Department, said adult foster homes are part of a spectrum of services in the mental health system that provides less support than institutions but more support than independent living.

People in adult foster homes may need assistance with daily living, medications and meal preparations. Ideally, the residents would eventually progress enough to move into independent living.

Jackson said at this point, it’s difficult to know what the impact of the new rate system could be, noting that not all clients will receive lower funding.

The federal government has long scrutinized Oregon’s mental health system, pushing it to make investments in community-based services and institutionalize fewer people. A federal investigation that was launched in 2006 centered on whether the state was violating provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide mentally ill Oregonians with adequate community-based services.

State and federal officials reached an agreement to make reforms while avoiding legal action against the state.

In a status update letter dated March 11, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice wrote that there is still a “dearth of supported housing.” The letter cited the 115 people who were discharged from the Oregon State Hospital in the first half of 2014. Only three or four of them were discharged to supported housing, while more than half were moved to another institutional setting. Two individuals were discharged to homelessness, the letter reads.

Providers say effectively shutting down their services through the rate cuts would be a significant step back in Oregon’s mental health goals.

“Our folks are able to live in the community and remain stable,” Devenberg said. “This type of care will not be available to so many people; they won’t qualify for institutional care and they’re just going to fall through the cracks. That means more homeless and mentally ill population.”

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What happened to Chris Kalonji

KNOWN FACTS – Chris Kalonji was shot and killed by a Clackamas County Sheriff’s Deputy on January 28, 2016. He was 19, a person of color and a persons with mental illness.

Parents say son killed in Oak Grove SWAT standoff was a ‘bright boy’ in ‘mental crisis’

KPTV.com February 5, 2016

The family of a 19-year-old killed in an officer-involved shooting at an Oak Grove apartment complex said they are eager for the official investigation to be complete.

KPTV – FOX 12

Christopher Kalonji, 19, was having a mental health crisis and engaged officers in a standoff for hours at the Holly Acres Apartments on Southeast Concord Road in Oak Grove last Thursday.

The deputies involved in the shooting are on leave while the Clackamas County Major Crimes team investigates, which is standard procedure.

“My son had mental crisis, like breakdown,” his father, Tony Kalonji, read from a written statement. “He ask get medical help. After 911 was called, police came and my son was killed. I want to show people how does it look, our apartment and room where my son was killed and after police search.”

Tony Kalonji and his wife, Irene Kalonji, showed a FOX 12 crew around their apartment Tuesday afternoon.

Furniture was upturned and the door frame to their son’s bedroom is broken from where deputies used an explosive to breach the door.

A framed picture of Christopher Kalonji sat on a table in the kitchen.

“Our son was so bright boy. He loves life. He likes people. He likes to help people. He was so smart,” said his mother, Irene Kalonji.

Clackamas County deputies first responded at 7:35 a.m. Thursday to a report of a man armed with a rifle who had reportedly threatened family members.

Deputies determined he was having a mental health crisis and called for police negotiators and mental health personnel.

The Kalonjis said their son was having a breakdown and had access to family guns inside their apartment, but they said he would never have hurt them.

“We were not hostages and we were not threatened,” Irene Kalonji said.

Christopher Kalonji

Christopher Kalonji

The family left the apartment after law enforcement arrived.

A sheriff’s office spokesman said negotiators and staff from the Behavioral Health Unit initially had significant success communicating with Christopher Kalonji, providing him with a blanket and sending a sergeant to get him a burger and French fries after he requested the three items.

The SWAT team was also called in.

At one point, Christopher Kalonji was complying with orders and started to climb out of his window onto a ladder, but for unknown reasons went back into the apartment and grabbed the rifle, prompting deputies to fire at him, according to the sheriff’s office.

For the next four hours, a spokesman said the team continued trying to get Christopher Kalonji to communicate with them, but he would not comply with their orders.

They eventually made it inside the apartment.

Christopher Kalonji was transported to a hospital, where he died.

Plans for a funeral service are underway.


Teen shot at by police died from gunshot wound to chest, medical examiner says

Oregonian, February 3, 2016

Christopher Kalonji - age 13 or 14

Christopher Kalonji – age 13 or 14

A 19-year-old man fatally shot last week by Clackamas County deputies responding to a report that the teen was threatening family members with a rifle, died from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to a state medical examiner.

Christopher Kalonji sustained a single wound following the encounter with deputies last Thursday at his Oak Grove apartment complex, said Dr. Larry Lewman. The manner of his death is still under investigation.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said Kalonji was having an apparent mental health crisis when deputies responded to his apartment in the morning. Members of the behavioral health and SWAT teams also arrived at the complex to assist.

At some point, deputies spotted Kalonji waving a rifle and shot at him, which led to him going inside his apartment and locking himself in one of the rooms, the sheriff’s office said. Deputies later threw tear gas into his second-floor unit and used an explosive charge on the front door to get inside.

Kalonji was taken to a hospital in the area eight hours after police first arrived. He died at the hospital.

Sgt. Tony Killinger, a 15-year member of the sheriff’s office, and Deputy Lon Steinhauer, a 21-year sheriff’s office veteran, have been placed on paid administrative leave for firing at Kalonji, according to the sheriff’s office. The leave is standard procedure for officer-involved shootings. It is not yet clear if either man hit Kalonji.

Oregon City officer Dan Shockley was injured after falling from a ladder while interacting with Kalonji, the sheriff’s office said. He is expected to survive.

The police investigation into the shooting of Kalonji could take several weeks to complete. An online donation page has been created in Kalonji’s name to raise money for funeral costs.


Man dies after suffering gunshot wounds in standoff with authorities in Milwaukie area

Oregonian, January 28, 2016

The 19-year-old man who engaged Clackamas County authorities in an hours-long standoff Thursday has died at a hospital, authorities say.

The man, whose name has not been released, was taken to a hospital with gunshot wounds earlier Thursday. The cause of his death will be released by the State Medical Examiner after an autopsy, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

Deputies responded to apartments in the 3700 block of Southeast Concord Road in the Milwaukie area at about 7:35 a.m. Thursday because of a report that the man had repeatedly threatened family members with a rifle.

Deputies determined that he was having a mental health crisis and called the county’s Behavioral Health Unit.

Members of the county’s SWAT team showed up as Behavioral Health Unit clinicians talked with the man over the phone for about 2-1/2 hours, said Clackamas County Detective Sgt. Dan Kraus, an agency spokesman.

The clinicians seemed to be making progress, but the man stopped cooperating and at one point posed a threat to police, Kraus said. Deputies then shot at him, the news release said. Kraus said Thursday afternoon police didn’t know whether the man also fired.

READ the remainder of Man dies after suffering gunshot wounds in standoff with authorities in Milwaukie area


Fatal police shooting investigation in Oak Grove could take weeks to complete, deputies say

Oregonian, January 29, 2016

An investigation into the fatal police shooting of a 19-year-old Oak Grove man who deputies say had a rifle and was going through a mental health crisis could take several weeks to complete, authorities say.

Two Clackamas County deputies are on paid administrative leave — standard procedure in an officer-involved shooting — following an eight-hour standoff Thursday with the man at an Oak Grove apartment complex, said Sgt. Dan Kraus, a sheriff’s spokesman. The man was pronounced dead at an area hospital.

The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office on Friday confirmed the man’s identity as Christopher Kalonji. The agency did not release the results of his autopsy, which was conducted Friday.

The sheriff’s office has not yet publicly identified the deputies involved or the man killed. Kraus said the man’s immediate family had been notified and had asked the sheriff’s office to withhold releasing his name until relatives outside the United States could be notified.

READ the remainder of Fatal police shooting investigation in Oak Grove could take weeks to complete, deputies say


SWAT fires rounds into Milwaukie apartment

KOIN.com January 29, 2016

The suspect was taken to the hospital shortly before 4 p.m.

A 19-year-old suspect involved in a SWAT standoff Thursday died as a result of his injuries, deputies said.

Authorities, negotiators and behavioral health workers were at Holly Acres Apartments on the 3700 block of SE Concorde for hours, according to Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

They were called to the scene around 7:30 a.m. on reports of a 19-year-old man armed with a rifle who had reportedly threatened family members.

Deputies quickly determined they were dealing with a mental health crisis, CCSO said.

SWAT team members reportedly fired at least 2 rounds into the apartment after the suspect brandished the rifle. He then retreated into the apartment and barricaded himself in one of the rooms, deputies said.

Authorities spent hours trying to get him to surrender. They reportedly deployed tear gas and charged a door in order to reach him.

The suspect was taken to the hospital shortly before 4 p.m.

He suffered gunshot wounds and later died at the hospital.

The investigation continues.


Teen shot in Clackamas Co. standoff dies

KGW.com January 29, 2016

Authorities say a 19-year-old man taken into custody after deputies fired their weapons into a residence during a standoff has died.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office says they responded to a call Thursday morning that a man with a rifle had threatened family members.

Deputies say they called mental health personnel. They and negotiators spoke to the man for over two hours and say at one point he brandished the rifle.

Deputies then fired at the man, who they say retreated, barricading himself in one of the rooms.

After deploying tear gas and using an explosive device to open the door, deputies say they took the man into custody.

Officials say he was taken to a hospital with gunshot wounds where he died.

The officers involved have been placed on paid leave while officials investigate.

The sheriff’s office said the investigation will take “several weeks” to complete.

The name of the man who died has not been released.


Chris Kalonji is on the right hand side in the picture below.

Christopher Kalonji

HELP – Pay Christopher Kalonji’s funeral costs

From Kalonji’s online memorial page –

“Christopher was an amazing human being. No words can fully describe the wonders of this young man, who’s life was taken away too soon. This money will go towards his funeral costs and damages done to the Kalonji household because the clackamas county police refuse to cover the costs of the damage they’ve done themselves. I only want to spread love and positivity for Christopher and his family right now. This is a tragic loss. Even if you do not have the funds to donate just spreading this and getting this out there would mean the world to me. Every little bit of effort counts. The world has lost an incredible young man.”


UPDATED: Officer-involved shooting during Jan. 28 SWAT standoff on SE Concord
UPDATE (Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, 4 p.m.) — INVESTIGATION CONTINUES; AUTOPSY CONDUCTED; DECEASED NAME WITHHELD AT FAMILY REQUEST

Detectives from the Clackamas County Major Crimes Team continue to investigate the officer-involved shooting that occurred yesterday (Thursday, Jan. 28) at the Holly Acres Apartments in Oak Grove. The investigation is expected to take several weeks to complete.

An autopsy was conducted today by the Oregon State Medical Examiner. We will release the Medical Examiner’s findings when they are completed and available.

However, we have been asked by the family to delay the release of this deceased’s identity so that they can complete notifications to relatives that live outside of the United States. We expect to be able to release the identity early next week.

Please reference CCSO Case # 16-2536.
EARLIER (Jan. 28, 7:30 p.m.)

The subject in today’s SWAT standoff has died at the hospital.

The name of the deceased will be released pending family notifications.

The State Medical Examiner will release cause of death following an autopsy.

The deputies involved in the shooting are now on paid administrative leave — which is standard practice following an officer-involved shooting.

The incident remains under investigation.
EARLIER (Thursday, Jan. 28, 5:05 p.m.)

At approximately 7:35 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office Patrol deputies responded to 3710 SE Concord. Dispatch had received a report of a 19-year-old man who was armed with a rifle — and had reportedly threatened family members with that rifle.

Deputies soon determined that the subject was in a mental-health crisis. They immediately called for mental health personnel from the Behavioral Health Unit, as well as police negotiators.

A conversation was initiated with the subject that went on for about two-and-a-half hours.

During this time, members of the Clackamas County Interagency Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) arrived and took over the scene.

The man eventually brandished the rifle, resulting in deputies firing at the man. The man retreated into the apartment, barricading himself in one of the rooms.

Deputies spent hours attempting to get the subject to surrender, including the deployment of tear gas and use of an explosive breaching charge on the door to reach the man.

At about 3:45 p.m. deputies were able to safely take the subject into custody.

His specific condition is unknown, but he is suffering from gunshot wounds. American Medical Response transported the subject to a local hospital.

The investigation has been turned over to the Clackamas County Major Crimes Team.

[END]
News-release archive

Contact Info:
Sergeant Dan Kraus
Office of Public Information
Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office

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No room at Oregon State Hospital means long seclusion for people with mental illness

Curry County Pilot
January 26, 2016

Patients being assessed for their mental health can be held up to five days — not 30 — in Curry General Hospital’s “hold room,” but must be transported somewhere else when that time is up.

The consensus isn’t the greatest, but it’s a start, agreed law enforcement, hospital officials, mental health and addiction advocates at a meeting last week in Gold Beach.

The hold room has been a problem for all involved for months, with patients endlessly waiting for space to become available in a psychiatric hospital; interfering with work, doctors and patients in the adjacent emergency room operations; being released just to be rearrested for petty crimes and causing havoc for citizens and law enforcement while they’re out.

“I don’t want anyone in there for five days,” said Curry Health Network CEO Ginny Razo. “It’s not humane. It’s not appropriate. It’s just too long for someone to sit and get no services. And we’re not set up to do that.”

Razo initially thought the certification for the room had expired, but later learned it is valid through July 2017.

But with no windows, no door and no restroom, it’s not just a bad situation for the person being evaluated and stabilized, she said. They had three such patients in the small room on a recent Friday, Razo reported.

Hold room patients have attacked hospital personnel. They’ve demanded to be set free. Many are released, creating problems for Gold Beach, or requiring the police to arrest them and place them in jail.

And psychiatric beds — the nearest is in Coos Bay — are usually unavailable. Family members of the patient are often at their wits’ end, having tried everything to take care of the patient and are no longer able.

Curry Community Health has hired one full time psychiatric counselor and a tele-psychiatrist.

“Psychiatrists are the most expensive guys on the planet,” said Ken Dukek, CEO of the nonprofit organization. He noted that those needing mental health services often need help during off-hours.

‘Patients can’t get rest’

“In the hospital right now, patients can’t get rest,” Razo said. “They’ve got these people being disruptive. We can’t have patients not getting any sleep because we’re wrestling someone to the ground.”

The hospital has no security guards, either.

“If a violent patients wants to leave, we let them,” Razo said. “It’s come to that. I can’t put my employees in that position. They’re not security. It’s easier for the staff to say, ‘Let him go.’ He’s going to harm somebody.”

Sometimes, officers or deputies can calm such a patient and convince them to return to the hospital, said Gold Beach Police Chief Dixon Andrews.

Other times, the problem is passed on to the jail.

When in jail, the mentally ill usually don’t get the treatment or counseling they need. They disturb other inmates, and often must be held in a private cell for their own protection and the safety of others. They too, are often released early, as constraints at the jail allow officials there to hold only the most egregious offenders — and often times, those suffering with mental issues are arrested for petty crimes, such as disorderly conduct or trespassing.

“Without a five-day hold, we’ll be turning those people right back around and dealing with the same situation and putting them in harm’s way,” said Sheriff Lt. Mick Espinoza.

“As deplorable as the conditions might be in the hold room, those people certainly don’t need to be in our jail,” said County Commissioner David Brock Smith, who serves as the county liaison to the hospital. “In jail or in that hold room, we’re not meeting the needs of that patient. There comes a point and time we’ve got to put the patient first.”

The new hospital will have a true hold room within its emergency room, Razo said.

Other elements the group agreed to work on to make their professional lives easier include alerting hospital personnel, CEO Ginny Razo and a counselor when a patient with mental problems is likely to be en route to the hospital; and obtaining crisis intervention training for medical personnel and law enforcement to learn how to defuse volatile situations involving those with mental illnesses.

Medical costs

Another challenge facing the emergency room in Gold Beach is that while a person is in the hold room, there is no way for the hospital to bill Medicare for any treatment they do receive, Razo said.

“It’s still considered an ER (admission), but for those five days, there are no billing codes,” she said. “They’ll produce a code if you get bitten by an alligator in a hotel, but there are no ER codes for psychiatric patients. We can’t even drop a bill for most of these patients. We’re in a terrible Catch-22.”

A problem facing the jail is that a state administrative rule dictates that anyone booked into the jail loses their medical coverage, be it private coverage, state or federal aid — even veteran’s benefits. Insurance is reinstated after trial.

And transporting a patient to a psychiatric hospital can run up to $3,000 — and it falls to the county, Dukek said. If anybody is lodged in jail and needs extensive medical procedures — for example, dialysis — the bill falls to the county.

“That will break our budget right there,” Espinoza said. “Some people would say they don’t deserve medical care. We’re tasked with keeping someone alive and healthy. And when we get them, they’re at their worst.”

Many of those booked into the jail have lifelong health problems.

“Right now we’re just putting a Band-aid on a gaping wound and hoping to solve the bleeding,” Espinoza said. “It’s an example of how deep this thing can get.”

Jail Sgt. Joel Hensley said it used to be a patient could be stabilized and released into the general population of inmates.

“Not any more,” he said. “And unfortunately (they’d be in jail with) our higher levels of criminals.”

Paying for it

Insurance, psychiatric treatment, medicine, counseling, training — it all costs money.

“And none of us have the money,” said Gold Beach City Administrator Jodi Fritts. “We have to determine what are our priorities for our community. I don’t know what the answer is.”

People with psychiatric problems are often released from the hospital or jail and end up on the streets of her city.

“They don’t need to be in the jail or the hospital,” Fritts said. “People in the hospitals are people with heart attacks or strokes. They don’t need Mr. Freak-out in the room next door.”

All agreed that an outpatient facility, similar to the Clubhouse in Gold Beach that provides housing and counseling for some individuals, would be “utopia.”

“And we can’t afford the services we have now,” Smith said.

“The reality is, people are here,” Fritts said. “They’re costing us money. One incident at the jail can wipe out your budget. We’re all just one lawsuit away from bankruptcy.”

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Upcoming Political Events – 2016

The Oregon primary election is May 17, 2016. The Mental Health Association of Portland will host two separate events to inform the public about political candidates and their positions.

The organization does not endorse candidates or initiatives.

The first event is March 10 at 6:30 PM at Maranatha Church in Northeast Portland. It will be a conversation with leading mayoral candidates about social justice. The program will be moderated by Israel Bayer of Street Roots, Jo Ann Hardesty of the NAACP – Portland Branch, and Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland.

We expect the Mayoral Candidate Forum on Social Justice to be at capacity so tickets are now available at https://pdx-mayor.eventbrite.com

Event co-sponsors include KBOO Community Radio 90.7, First Unitarian Church, McKenzie River Gathering, Mental Health Association of Portland, NAACP – Portland Chapter, Maranatha Church, Street Roots, Portland Women’s Crisis Line, ACLU of Oregon, The Skanner Newspaper, and In Other Words Feminist Community Center.

Candidates have been invited who meet the following criteria – they have formed a campaign committee and has raised $5000 prior to March 1. Those candidates as of this posting are Ted Wheeler and Jules Bailey. If others meet the criteria they will be invited.

On April 4 we will begin posting candidate responses to our survey on mental illness. The survey will be sent by email to all Oregon filed candidates who will serve the Portland metro area. Each candidate will be asked to answer one of three basic questions of their knowledge and opinion on issues important to people with mental illness and their allies. Their response, a campaign photo, and campaign contact information will be posted to our web site at www.mentalhealthportland.org.

These include –

City of Portland candidates.
Metro candidates.
Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas candidates.
Judicial candidates in the Portland area – positions 4, 5 and 20.
State Supreme Court candidates.
State senate candidates for the Portland area – 17, 14, 18, 19, 20, 24, 21, 23, 22, 25.
State representatives for the Portland area – 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51.
State candidates – Governor, Treasurer, Secretary of State, Attorney General.
Federal candidates – President, Senate, House.

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