Mental Health Association of Portland

Oregon's independent and impartial mental health advocate

Legislature Proposes to Raid Community Mental Health Housing Trust Fund

Posted by admin2 on 13th February 2012

From NAMI Oregon via Disability Rights Oregon

The Co-Chairs of the Joint Ways and Means Committee want to raid the Community Mental Health Housing Trust Fund of $5.8 million — half of the fund — to balance this year’s budget. The interest generated from this crucial Trust Fund has led to the development of new housing and supported housing across Oregon for those living with severe mental illness. (See background information below).

We need your help to deliver a simple message: Put the Trust Back in the Community Mental Health Housing Trust Fund!

Let Co-Chairs Rep. Dennis Richardson, Rep. Peter Buckley and Sen. Richard Devlin know that it is their ethical obligation to preserve the Trust Fund for its promised purpose — to provide new housing for individuals living with severe mental illness. Without the Trust Fund, Oregon has no dedicated funds for community-based housing.

The state made a promise to the people of Oregon. Please consider sending an email or calling Rep. Richardson, Rep. Buckley and Sen. Devlin and other members of the Joint Ways and Means Committee to ensure they fulfill that promise!

Joint Ways and Means Co-Chairs

Rep. Dennis Richardson, Co-Chair
503-986-1404
Email: rep.dennisrichardson@state.or.us

Rep. Peter Buckley, Co-Chair
503-986-1405
Email: rep.peterbuckley@state.or.us

Sen. Richard Devlin, Co-Chair
503-986-1719
Email: sen.richarddevlin@state.or.us

Committee Members

Rep. E. Terry Beyer
503-986-1412
Email: rep.terrybeyer@state.or.us

Rep. Jean Cowan
503-986-1410
Email: rep.jeancowan@state.or.us

Rep. Tim Freeman
503-986-1402
Email: rep.timfreeman@state.or.us

Rep. Bill Garrard
503-986-1456
Email: rep.billgarrard@state.or.us

Rep. Betty Komp
503-986-1422
Email: rep.bettykomp@state.or.us

Rep. Mike McLane
503-986-1455
Email: rep.mikemclane@state.or.us

Rep. Nancy Nathanson
503-986-1413
Email: rep.nancynathanson@state.or.us

Rep. Mary Nolan
503-986-1436
Email: rep.marynolan@state.or.us

Rep. Tobias Read
503-986-1427
Email: rep.tobiasread@state.or.us

Rep. Greg Smith
503-986-1457
Email: rep.gregsmith@state.or.us

Rep. Kim Thatcher
503-986-1425
Email: rep.kimthatcher@state.or.us

Rep. Gene Whisnant
503-986-1453
Email: rep.genewhisnant@state.or.us

Sen. Alan Bates
503-986-1703
Email: sen.alanbates@state.or.us

Sen. Chris Edwards
503-986-1707
Email: sen.chrisedwards@state.or.us

Sen. Fred Girod
503-986-1709
Email: sen.fredgirod@state.or.us

Sen. Betsy Johnson
503-986-1716
Email: sen.betsyjohnson@state.or.us

Sen. Rod Monroe
503-986-1724
Email: sen.rodmonroe@state.or.us

Sen. David Nelson
503-986-1729
Email: sen.davidnelson@state.or.us

Sen. Chuck Thomsen
503-986-1726
Email: sen.chuckthomsen@state.or.us

Sen. Joanne Verger
503-986-1705
Email: sen.joanneverger@state.or.us

Sen. Doug Whitsett
503-986-1728
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us

Sen. Jackie Winters
503-986-1710
Email: sen.jackiewinters@state.or.us

Background

The Legislature created the Community Mental Health Housing Trust Fund in 1999 to ensure that proceeds from the sale of Dammasch State Hospital were used to develop community-based housing across Oregon. Dammasch closed in 1995, which led to an even greater shortage of housing for individuals living with severe mental illness.

The Trust Fund was established so that resources would be available to expand Oregon’s community-based housing. Under state law, the Fund’s principal cannot be touched, and interest income is to be spent on developing community-based housing. A portion also may be spent on “institutional housing,” such as improvements to the Oregon State Hospital.

By one estimate, the Trust Fund has created more than $5 million in community housing for individuals living with severe mental illness. Even more private dollars have been invested as each Trust Fund dollar is leveraged to create more investment.

The Joint Ways and Means Committee is proposing to change state law so they may raid the Trust Fund of $5.8 million, or half of the Trust Fund’s $12 million in assets. There are no guarantees that the Fund will ever be replenished.

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From its inception, Wilsonville complex for people with mental illness unlike any other in country

Posted by admin2 on 13th August 2009

From the Oregonian, August 13 2009

Gwen Watson picked up her acoustic guitar, gently placed her fingers along the frets and softly launched into John Denver’s “My Sweet Lady.”

Her silky soprano soared effortlessly into the song’s upper register as she plucked the steel strings in mistake-free accompaniment. For all her musical virtuosity, 51-year-old Watson is the first to say her life hasn’t always been this in tune.

“Starting at age 17 and lasting for the next 21 years, I was so medicated that I was living in unreality,” she said. “The drugs they gave me were the drugs they give murderers.”

After decades of living in adult group homes and struggling with mental illness, Watson finally has a place of her own at Rain Garden Apartments, a 29-unit housing complex for adults with mental illness that officially opens this morning.

It’s a place unlike any other in the country. Rain Garden, along with two group homes and two apartment complexes for adults with mental illness, is situated squarely among the 700 upscale houses and condos at Wilsonville’s Villebois “urban village.” Developers, along with state and county mental health experts, say this is the first place in the United States where mental-health housing was part of a larger master-planned community from its inception.

“We had to go back to Washington, D.C., to ask for federal guidance on how we do this,” said Ruby Kadlub, founder of Costa Pacific, which developed Villebois. “They said they couldn’t tell me, because it hadn’t ever been done before.”

The land’s history has everything to do with why new residents such as Watson finally have a place to call home. From 1961 until 1995, Dammasch State Hospital was located here. Hailed at its opening as a national model for progressive treatment regimens, the hospital eventually succumbed to the move to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill.

Legislators, recognizing that Dammasch had been dedicated to mental health uses, passed a bill stipulating that money from its sale to private developers be set aside for grants to groups wanting to build housing there for people with mental illness.

As a result, Villebois’ rows of townhouses, condos and detached single-family houses include 10 acres that will eventually be filled with projects such as Rain Garden. With the exception of one Villebois resident who complained about the inclusion early on, the ability to blend adults with mental illness into the larger population has been seamless.

“We’ve spent a lot of time out there dispelling myths about mental illness,” said Cindy Becker, director of Clackamas County’s Department of Human Services. “The goal is to have people integrated, so no one even knows they live in a mental-health facility.”

Rain Garden’s tenants range in age from 18 to mid-60s, said Royce Bowlin, senior director of residential treatment services for Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, which provides round-the-clock on-site services for residents.

Residents come from a variety of places, including group homes, family situations or the state hospital. All are screened to ensure they are capable of living on their own, he said.

“With proper medication management and regimen of counseling, these folks are able to function at a remarkably high level,” said Dennis Keenan, executive director of Catholic Charities of Oregon, Rain Garden’s owner and developer. “These folks are fitting right in there.” Watson quickly agreed.

“I love it here,” she said. “I just love it. It’s first-class all the way.” In the three weeks since moving from a group home in Tigard, she has taken her first guitar lesson, decorated her studio apartment with heart-felt items such as a rug her mother wove for her and started venturing regularly to Villebois’ Sunday farmers’ market.

“I understand what it’s like to hit rock bottom and be all alone,” she said. “I’m finally in a place where I don’t think that will ever happen again. Believe me, I couldn’t be happier.”

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Defusing crises dispelling myths

Posted by admin2 on 9th November 2006

From The Oregonian, November 9, 2006

Two years ago deputies responding to a call of a resident disturbing the peace shot and killed the woman after she charged them with a knife. The residents, a Clackamas County mental health worker has advised the deputies, are still a little on edge.

The visit is part of the sheriff’s office’s third semiannual training devoted to teaching officers how to better handle encounters involving people who are mentally ill, who often don’t respond well to traditional police commands and techniques and who might act unpredictably at times of crisis.

The sessions begins.

A woman with ice-blue eyes and bangs pinned back with a sparkly clip asks the deputies why they have to carry guns. Guns, she says, petrify her. She’s seen what police do with them on TV.

The police officers assure her they use their guns only in true emergencies –not like the actors on TV.

Another resident wants to know whether police stereotype mentally ill people.

“Do you automatically put us in a box?” she asks.

“Do you think mentally ill people have hotter tempers than other people?” asks another.

And another resident chimes in: “Don’t you have a code –1151 or something –to refer to us?”

“It’s 1234,” answers one of the deputies, adding that the categorization is only used so police can better help the person in mental crisis. “The police officer will hear that and start asking questions: ‘How are you doing?’ ‘What do you need?’ ”

By the end of the exchange, the room appears to have warmed some. The residents appear a little more relaxed, and the police officers, too.

The training –known as Crisis Intervention Training –was held late last month. It is the third since Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts took office in January 2005 and said his office must better equip deputies to deal with the increasing number of calls about people in mental crisis.

Roberts said he recognized the need a few years ago as a detective when he responded to the call near Oregon 212 in the Boring area. Roberts showed up to find a suicidal man who’d doused himself with two cans of gasoline and was holding a cigarette lighter.

“I thought ‘This is absurd,’ ” said Roberts, realizing he didn’t have training to draw upon. Roberts was able to talk the man into surrendering but felt he was grasping for what to say or do.

Jail data show that as many as 28 percent of Clackamas County Jail inmates have a diagnosed mental illness. But officials say the true percentage of inmates who have mental illnesses –diagnosed or not –is probably much higher.

Sgt. Nick Watt, who helped developed the crisis intervention course, estimates that 50 percent of the calls he responds to involve someone with mental health issues a suicidal person, a car thief on mind-altering methamphetamine, or a combative person yelling at anyone who passes by.

The dangers of police encounters with mentally ill people have been highlighted recently by high-profile incidents in the Portland area, including the September death in police custody of James P. Chasse Jr., a man police thought was on drugs or drunk but who actually suffered from schizophrenia.

In Clackamas County, there have been several incidents in which police shot and killed people acting irrationally or exhibiting mental problems –including Clint Carey, a 24-year-old Carver man who in 2005 duct-taped a knife to his hand and then charged at deputies; Fouad Kaady, a 27-year-old Gresham man who was reportedly growling, naked and non-compliant to police commands in 2005; and Joyce Staudenmaier, the Chez Ami resident shot in 2004, who had battled schizophrenia for nearly three decades.

Clackamas County’s 40-hour class teaches participants about the gamut of mental illnesses and the drugs used to treat them. Participants hear mental health experts’ advice on how police should approach and speak to people with mental disorders. They also act out scenarios they might encounter in the field.

Portland, and in more recent years, Washington and Marion counties, also have crisis intervention training. Portland Mayor Tom Potter recently said he wants every patrol officer on the Portland Police force to go through the city’s 40-hour course, which during the past 12 years has been voluntary.

And starting in January, the state’s police academy will increase classroom instruction on how to interact with mentally ill people from three hours to 12. Students seeking a basic police officer certification also will undergo eight to 10 hours of scenario-based training.

In Clackamas County, 75 members of law enforcement –including about three dozen sheriff’s deputies and three dozen officers from police departments including Lake Oswego, Oregon City, Canby and Sandy –have been through the sheriff’s training. Roberts said his goal is to train all 91 of his patrol deputies in the next few years. So far, he’s about a third of the way there.

Sharing experiences

After a few days of intensive classroom training, the Clackamas County class breaks into small groups to tour apartments and group homes of people with mental illnesses; Portland Adventist’s psychiatric ward, where police often bring people who are threatening to harm themselves or others; and the Hooper detox center in Portland, where police drop off people intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.

The visits give officers opportunities to interact with people with mental illnesses and those who treat them.

A Milwaukie group home manager tells visiting officers that it’s a good idea to turn off overhead lights and sirens when responding to incidents at her group home. Lights and sirens can stir bad memories.

A woman who suffers from depression tells officers that she doesn’t like handcuffs because they make her feel like a criminal. And a man tells officers that a little bit of leeway goes a long way with him –he still remembers the officer who let him keep his chewing tobacco in his mouth as he was driving to jail.

At the Chez Ami Apartments, resident Susan Funk tells the deputies that she’s happy to talk to them about her police encounters because she wants them to see what she’s like 80 percent of the year.

“You only know me when I’m freaking out, and that’s why I come to these (trainings),” says Funk, 40, who was diagnosed 17 years ago with bipolar disorder.

Funk is clear-headed, witty and pointed in her conversation with deputies. She says if they happen to encounter her on a bad day, they should try to treat her with respect. She doesn’t respond well to harsh commands or force.

“Try to be nice to me if you can,” she said. “Try not to corner me. Because that would make me feel like I want to fight and struggle.”

Funk also shares her take on the small number of police encounters that go bad.

“It’s not only a failure of police,” Funk says. “It’s also a failure of family, the community and the mental health staff who have not been able to intervene.”

Not just a police issue

Funk’s statements about mental health officials, family and friends stepping in before a person with mental illness reaches a state of crisis ring true with Watt, who helped develop the class. Watt, the Clackamas sergeant who helped develop the program, says that clearly many people who need help aren’t getting or seeking the help –and police are the ones called at the last minute when mentally ill people act out in troubling ways.

Officers can’t force a mentally ill person to seek treatment unless that person is presenting a safety threat. In those cases, police try to find a hospital placement, but Watt says too often beds at Portland-area hospitals are full. Once, Watt says, the only bed he could find for an emotionally disturbed person was in Roseburg, 175 miles south.

What’s more, admittance to a hospital for psychiatric help might only be a short-term fix, because psychiatric staff release the person once the immediate threat has passed. Too often, mental health experts say, people refuse additional treatment.

Police and mental health officials attribute the rise in mental health-related calls to a fundamental change in philosophy about how to treat people. People with severe mental illnesses used to be institutionalized, said Jessica Leitner, program manager for the county’s behavioral health division.

But closing Dammasch State Hospital in the mid-1990s signaled a change in that philosophy in Oregon: Mental health experts came to believe that people with mental health issues were best placed in smaller community treatment facilities, group homes or their own homes.

Having more people with mental health issues living in the community, however, makes contacts with local police more likely.

Eric Cederholm, who has been diagnosed with chronic depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, was eager to talk to crisis-intervention class participants during their visit to his Milwaukie group home. He wants to offer them support.

While training is good, he said, he wants them to know that they won’t always be able to talk a mentally ill person through a crisis.

Cederholm said he was determined to die in June 2005 when he pointed a gun at a Milwaukie Police officer, and the officer shot him in the arm, narrowly missing his chest. He still has the scar.

“I was hell-bent,” Cederholm tells the class participants. “Some poor (guy) had to shoot me. I’m sure it ruined his day.”

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Lack of psychiatric beds burdens health care system

Posted by admin2 on 5th February 2006

From The Portland Business Journal, February 5, 2006

Urgent-care patients from Portland get sent to facilities

Over a recent holiday weekend, three Portland-area patients needing emergency mental health care were sent out of town for help. One patient ended up in a Medford hospital; the other two went to Corvallis.

The reason: Not one Portland-area hospital with psychiatric units had beds for these acutely ill patients.

Unfortunately, such out-of-town transfers are routine, say area mental health workers and advocates.

Almost every week, hospital emergency rooms in the Portland area send psychiatric patients — people who are suicidal or hallucinating, for example — to hospitals in Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Pendleton, Bend, Medford or Coos Bay.

“There aren’t enough psychiatric beds in the city to handle the amount of people needing them,” says Jean Dentinger, supervisor of the involuntary commitment program in the behavioral health division of Multnomah County’s Department of Community and Family Services.

“It’s an inefficient and expensive way to provide care,” she says with frustration. “It’s not good care for patients to sit in an emergency department in Medford. We don’t like it, they don’t like it and the hospitals receiving them aren’t happy either. But it’s the system we have.”

A combination of funding cutbacks, steep cuts in the Oregon Health Plan, rising health care costs and an increasing number of uninsured Oregonians have all contributed to what has become a crisis-level shortage of beds for mental health patients in metropolitan Portland.

Since 2001, the metro area has lost nearly 200 psychiatric beds, beginning with the closures of Pacific Gateway Hospital in Southeast Portland and the Providence Crisis Triage Center. That same year, Oregon Health & Science University Hospital shut down two mental-health units.

Two years ago, Woodland Park Hospital in Northeast Portland closed its doors, eliminating another mental health unit.

Currently, about 150 beds are available at the six area hospitals that have psychiatric units, according to statistics from Dentinger’s office. All of them fill up on regular basis.

Patients who show up at emergency rooms for care wait hours or sometimes even a day or more for placement in a psychiatric unit.

“Psychiatric patients really clog up the emergency department,” says Sue Dietderich, administrative director of emergency services for Legacy Health System. Psychiatric patients, who can be a danger to themselves or others, need special attention and one-on-one observation, all of which strains emergency departments.

“It ties up a staff member, ties up a critical-care room and is a disservice to the patients themselves,” says Dietderich.

Kaiser Permanente, which currently does not operate a mental health unit, will relieve some of the pressure on emergency rooms in the summer of 2007 when it opens a 40-bed psychiatric unit in a new building now under construction next to its Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas.

“We looked at what we needed to do to take care of Kaiser patients and at our community obligation,” says Keith Griffin, assistant chief of Kaiser’s mental health department.

Like other hospital emergency rooms, the Kaiser mental health unit will admit anyone needing a bed, not just Kaiser members. “We’re all in the same dilemma,” Griffin says. “Everybody is having to make sure we help each other and stretch what we do have to the max.”

On the other hand, Physicians’ Hospital in Northeast Portland — the former Woodland Park Hospital which reopened under new ownership in 2004 and is still working to become financially stable — has dropped plans to add a mental-health unit to an urgent-care facility it is building this year.

“It wasn’t economically feasible to add mental health services,” says Bill Houston, the hospital’s chief executive officer. “It would have presented a degree of staffing requirements that would make it expensive to operate. Revenue reimbursement for mental health services is terrible. We would lose money, and we can’t afford to do that.”

Houston says he recognizes the community need for such services. But, he says, “the system is broken.”

What’s needed is a full psychiatric hospital to care for patients in need of urgent care, he says.

Such a facility would be useful for providing emergency care for mental illness, agrees Herb Ozer, director of operations for Providence Health System Behavioral Health Services. However, that’s not to say that Portland or Oregon needs a major psychiatric hospital for long-term care.

Mental health providers and advocates agree that residential treatment facilities and other community resources other than a hospital would provide better and more appropriate on-going care for psychiatric patients.

Ozer says that was the idea when Dammasch State Hospital closed in the mid-’90s.

“Closing Dammasch was a good thing,” he says. “Some were in Dammasch for years who could have lived in their community.”

But the state never provided enough money to establish services and facilities for people who otherwise would have been treated at Dammasch.

And there has never been adequate funding since then for comprehensive outpatient mental health care, Ozer says.

“So we end up having to hospitalize them,” Ozer says. “We can’t get patients into ambulances for cardiac care. Or they take up hospital beds, which are not set up to be safe for suicidal patients.”

Because reimbursements for mental health patients are low, hospitals end up absorbing the cost of their care or passing it on to insured patients in the form of higher insurance costs, he says.

Mental health workers agree the bed-shortage situation is dire and needs a broader solution than adding more beds.

“It’s important not to look at it as a bed crisis, but as a system crisis,” says Leslie Ford, director of Cascadia Behavioral Health Services, which provides mental health and addiction services, assessments, a 24-hour crisis team and other services for low-income clients.

“We need more case management, more crisis intervention, more affordable and supportive housing services,” she says.

Mental health workers and advocates are meeting regularly to find solutions. More funding from the Oregon Legislature is a priority.

A group of providers has formed the Oregon Psychiatric Inpatient Committee to urge state lawmakers to step up to the funding plate.

Metro-area hospital emergency department managers are meeting once a month to share problems, discuss solutions and look for ways to cooperate with each other, says Kathleen Ramey, director of emergency services for the Portland Providence Health System.

To help alleviate the bed shortage problem at its hospitals, Legacy Health System hired a psychiatrist to examine mentally ill patients who show up in the emergency room, says Legacy’s Dietderich.

“She makes the rounds daily at Emanuel and Good Samaritan hospitals and at some Legacy clinics,” Dietderich says. “We need four of her!”

The Oregon Psychiatric Association also has taken on the bed-shortage issue, says Portland psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Dodson, the group’s president-elect. The problem will be a major topic of discussion at the association’s access-to-care summit in April.

“We know what’s necessary for comprehensive mental health system,” Dodson says. “The problem is to get funding for it and to work with local communities to make that happen.”

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Oregon’s mentally ill largely left to fend for themselves out in communities

Posted by admin2 on 21st April 1996

By Robert Landauer – editorial columnist for The Oregonian, April 21, 1996. Not available elsewhere online.

Imagine Oregon’s seriously mentally ill patients leaving psychiatric hospitals. Picture them skiing down the slope of that graph over there. See them gliding into community programs with supervised housing, calming drugs and counseling.

As background music, play “America the Beautiful”: Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears! End of daydream.

That ski slope is a cliff. At its base is wreckage, not snow angels. Tears, not smiles.

Severely mentally ill Oregonians are crashing into a system of walls with few gates.

Oregon closed Dammasch State Hospital, the regional psychiatric center in Wilsonville, on July 26, 1994. Resources were supposed to follow patients to their communities. Witnesses describe effects of cutbacks and the closure:

Acute-care beds (about 190 in Multnomah County) and support services are too scarce.

Dr. J. David Kinzie, director of psychiatric clinical services at Oregon Health Sciences University, struggles with the problem daily: “We are discharging patients that most modern industrial countries would not discharge into the community. Then we support the patients less well than other countries do with housing, money to live on and medical help. It’s awful.”

As hospital beds disappear for the mentally ill, jail beds take their place.

“It is estimated that 7.6 percent of all persons in jail are mentally ill,” Richard Sherman reported in a 1994 survey of counties for the state’s mental -health division.

On an average day, 130 mentally ill persons are in Multnomah County Jail. That is about half the state total, says Jack Wolinski, director of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Multnomah County.

Jail beds substitute poorly for farsighted care of the mentally ill.

Mike McCracken bangs the point home with four hard jabs: “This population doesn’t do well in jail. They don’t normally follow the rules. They don’t understand or comply with incentive systems. As a result, they stay in jail much longer than healthy inmates.”

McCracken is executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Programs — 32 county-based operations that run publicly funded comprehensive mental -health services for 50,000-plus Oregonians.

Police and sheriff’s deputies are diverted to tend the mentally ill.

Some deputy sheriffs are doing social work as opposed to penal work with the mentally ill, says Cmdr. Vera Pool, the sheriff’s Jail Support Division boss in Multnomah County. The goal is to find them housing, so they can be released. “These people should be treated, not jailed. We feel obligated to go beyond our job descriptions to give them the services they need.”

Lt. C.W. Jensen, the Portland Police Bureau’s spokesman, adds, “The last people who should be penalized for government’s decisions are the people in crisis.”

The bureau has created a Crisis Intervention Team — volunteer officers trained to keep those in mental flux from endangering themselves, the public or police. The officers often are pulled from other duties, routinely get “no-room-at-the-inn” rejections at hospital emergency rooms; and drive sick people around for hours in the hope that they can safely be put back on the street.

The system will get worse before it gets better.

Many day-treatment programs are closing or are reducing services, says Carol Laine, of Gresham, an eight-year, full-time-volunteer advocate for families of persons with serious mental illness. “So we are seeing people who are sicker, who have more needs, and simply not enough dollars to meet their requirements.”

Add this to the gloom: Starting next January, the state will send many hundreds of its criminal prisoners back to the counties. Local jails will get more mentally ill inmates — most of them untreated.

Lack of capacity will drive the relentless triage harder, pushing our mentally ill from hospitals to streets, from streets to jails and from jails to . . .

That’s not enlightened. It’s insane.

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Police learn their lessons on handling the mentally ill

Posted by admin2 on 18th April 1996

By Robert Landauer – editorial columnist for The Oregonian, April 18, 1996. Not available elsewhere online.

“Police shootings in August 1994 of two mentally disturbed women in less than a week shocked and appalled Portland and Gresham.”

“The cream of the crop.”

The phrase is common, but both the source and the subject are surprising.

The praise comes from Margaret Taylor. She is executive director of the Salem-based Oregon Alliance for the Mentally Ill. She is talking about Portland-area police, mostly in the Portland Police Bureau.

The change of perception is startling. Police shootings in August 1994 of two mentally disturbed women in less than a week shocked and appalled Portland and Gresham.

But the tragedies should not have surprised them.

Oregon has been downsizing its mental -health-care institutions and underfunding community-based alternatives for years. It had just closed its regional psychiatric hospital in Wilsonville, Dammasch State Hospital.

“The last resort” is what doctors, judges, police and advocates for the mentally ill called Dammasch. The pun was marginally cruel, bitterly ironic — and chillingly apt.

“We would see them in the sobering station, and they had just gotten off the bus with prescriptions from Dammasch,” recalled Ed Blackburn, director of Central City Concern’s Hooper Detoxification Center in Northeast Portland.

Calls for police intervention mounted as the population of the seriously mentally ill on the streets rose.

The killings of the two women were a peak, a summit. But not a triumph.

Gendarmes feared they were becoming forced draftees for police-assisted suicides. Most disliked being cast as head-thumping, guns-and-guts, “Robocop” stereotypes.

Portland police responded creatively. Sgt. Karl McDade and Carol Sweet of the bureau researched and helped develop a Crisis Intervention Team. It was operational and plugged into the 9-1-1 emergency system a year after the two deaths.

The idea is to get 90 to 100 officers — three to four every day on every shift in each precinct — who have been trained to identify the mentally disturbed and deal safely and sensitively with them.

The bureau is two-thirds of the way toward its goal, says Capt. David Butzer, who leads the Family Services Division. He makes another point worth appreciating:

“These are all volunteers, no extra pay, and we’ve asked far too few people (to handle) the needs, demands and great stresses.”

The effort is noticed:

Jack Wolinski, director of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Multnomah County: “During the training period, consumers talked to these police officers and were telling them what was going on in their minds during the psychotic episodes. The police discovered that the mentally ill person was very frightened and confused. Even if there was a weapon, it was for self-protection, not to inflict harm. . . . The dialogue taught them to be patient, and the crisis could be resolved in a peaceful manner.”

Howard Klink, deputy director of Multnomah County’s Department of Community and Family Services: “I would absolutely support the idea that there is a sea change in both law enforcement people’s understanding and their concern for mentally ill people on the street.”

Police understand “the inappropriateness and inhumaneness of putting these people in jails.”

Mike McCracken, executive director, Association of Community Mental Health Programs, also sees changes occurring: “Police are taking a leadership role in advocating for better services in jails, better diversion processes and community networks of services. Police and sheriffs are not Bubbas. They do not want the mentally ill to have to suffer in an inappropriate setting.”

Beyond our own shortcomings — but close to our vulnerabilities — is where compassion and pragmatism meet.

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Holladay Park out as crisis center site

Posted by admin2 on 2nd February 1995

From the Oregonian, February 2, 1995 – not online

Plans to site a mental health crisis center at the former Holladay Park Hospital in Northeast Portland building are dead.

Howard Klink, deputy director of the county Community and Family Services Division, said Wednesday that plans for the center have fallen through.

His comments follow a letter from Mitchell Olejko, chief legal officer for Legacy Health System, to Portland Mayor Vera Katz, in which he says the medical group planned to use the remaining space at the building at 1225 N.E. Second Ave. for either “some of our own services” or leasing to “other external parties.”

The decision apparently does not change plans by Legacy to lease space at Holladay Park to the state Mental Health Division for long-term, intermediate care for up to 70 patients from Dammasch Hospital in Wilsonville. for an intermediate care program. Dammasch is in the process of closing down.

“These actions preclude Legacy Health Systems from leasing to Multnomah County for a ‘mental health crisis triage unit,’ ” the letter said.

The action comes as good news for the Lloyd District Community Association and the Portland Trail Blazers, both of which had opposed the idea of a crisis center in the hospital, which has been used as a mental health facility since the 1940s.

It also puts to an end — for now — to the confusion over the details of a proposed crisis center.

While the Lloyd association was convinced that such a plan was in the making, Legacy officials had repeatedly denied plans to lease space at Holladay Park for a crisis center.

Now, however, that debate is moot.

Larry Hill, vice president of Legacy, repeated as much at a meeting this week with the Lloyd District Community Association.

However, Hill said, “It’s our attorney’s view and my view that we have the right to withhold approval to sublease, and we won’t rent to Multnomah County. End of discussion.”

Klink, deputy director of the county Community and Family Services Division, says he agrees with that interpretation.

The letter “makes it pretty clear what their authority is and what their intentions are,” Klink said.

Meanwhile, the county is continuing to develop plans for a crisis center, where the police can bring people suffering from apparent mental problems for short-term confinement, analysis and transfer to an appropriate facility, Klink says.

However, he says, as a site for such a facility, “As far as we are concerned, Holladay Park is not an option.”

The discussion over whether a crisis center would be established at Holladay Park started right after state health officials proposed a 10-year contract with Legacy to lease space for patients from Dammasch.

Klink said the state in October had approached the county about the idea of subleasing space in the building for a crisis triage center .

The situation became further complicated when the Lloyd District Community Association land-use committee learned of the state’s idea and began holding a series of talks in an effort to kill the idea.

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Crowd Blasts State Plans to Shut Down Dammasch

Posted by admin2 on 3rd October 1994

The Oregonian, October 3, 1994

They came — 60 men and women, nurses, social workers, friends and kin of the mentally ill. They came to point out the needs of the mentally ill, to mourn and to protest the closing of Dammasch State Hospital.

The crowd gathered Sunday evening outside the main entry to the Wilsonville hospital, listened to songs and several speeches, heard of the myths and facts of the mentally disturbed, prayed and lit candles.

Some 1,000 communities held similar vigils sponsored by the Alliance for the Mentally Ill as part of a nationwide program kicking off Mental Illness Awareness Week.

The Oregon vigil took on more added significance than most.

Dammasch, voted into existence by the Legislature in the early 1960s, is being shut because of the state’s money crunch.

Stanley F. Mazur-Hart, superintendent of Oregon State Hospital, said Dammasch is scheduled to release 50 more patients by Nov. 1, bringing the total residents to 72, down from 345 five years ago. By next June, the hospital is to be shut.

At the same time, he added, the people being admitted are new to the system. Those turned out are becoming a problem for the communities they live in.

In Portland there has been a 23 percent increase in the number of mentally ill people hauled off to a local hospitals by police — if a bed is available. Last year Portland police took 890 mentally ill people to hospitals, up from 719 in 1990. In recent years, police around the state and Portland in particular have had to deal with citizens who use officers as a means of suicide.

The mental illness problem is growing, said Harold H. Kulm, president of the Clackamas chapter of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill. He carried a placard with a large picture of Janet Marilyn Smith, one of two mentally ill people killed recently by Portland police. “Where were the beds?” his sign asked.

The killing and a similar one, Kulm maintained, would have been prevented if the victims had been in Dammasch or receiving care at a qualified mental center.

Linda Sievers, a member of the alliance’s Multnomah County board, cited the Saturday suicide of Todd K. Calhoun, 34, in the Justice Center Jail as another example of what is wrong with the state’s mental health system.

Both blamed the cutback in the the state’s mental health care programs for part of the problem.

Often, Kulm said, a mentally ill person will be hauled around in a patrol car for three or four hours in handcuffs because no one wants him and he often winds up in jail.

“All we want is parity,” Kulm said. “No one would think of turning away a stroke or heart attack victim at 2 or 3 a.m. as is done in mental cases. Mental illness is a disease just like diabetes.”

“It’s ludicrous to close Dammasch. What are they going to do with the people left in there? What are they going to do with the new ones coming on the scene?” he asked.

Tamara Hancock of Lake Oswego said she was glad her schizophrenic brother, Glenn, was living in Colorado instead of Oregon.

Sievers, whose son, Clark, has a mental problem, called the cutbacks in the state’s mental health care a symptom of the “erosion of the social consciousness of the country.”

The mentally ill need a place that gives them a safe environment, a place where they can be encouraged, not a jail, Sievers said.

She called the deaths of the three mentally ill people a tragedy and urged police forces to copy Memphis, Tenn., in having a person trained in mental health on every team responding to a mental case.

“Mental illness is a faceless disease that no one wants to acknowledge,” Sievers said. “One in four families has some sort of brain disease. It can be a depressive mood or schizophrenia. They are all treatable.”

“Many don’t become mentally ill until their late teens or early adulthood,” Sievers said. “People don’t acknowledge them or the problem. They turn their cheek. We just want to make people aware of the problem.”

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