Mental Health Association of Portland

Oregon's independent and impartial mental health advocate

‘Broken promises’ at Fairness Hearing

Posted by Jenny on 19th February 2014

fedcourtjpg-b79072e75a265771The Portland Mercury, Feb. 19, 2014

It was billed as a signature piece of a proposed legal settlement meant to answer federal accusations that Portland police officers engage “in a pattern or practice” of using excessive force against people in mental-health crisis.

READOur spoken testimony at the Fairness Hearing

READOur written testimony submitted to Judge Simon

Working with the state and county—who control mental health funding in Oregon—the city would establish treatment facilities where people in crisis could either be dropped off by police officers or check in voluntarily. The city was so bullish, back when the provision was negotiated by ex-Mayor Sam Adams in 2012, city officials thought they might open the centers by summer 2013.

But on Tuesday, February 18, those officials and US Department of Justice attorneys offered an admission that advocates have long fretted over. It was during an hours-long “fairness hearing”—a key step before US District Court Judge Michael Simon either approves or rejects the settlement.

Not only are those treatment centers not even close to opening, but they might never open at all.Despite the centers’ promise of providing treatment and hopefully minimizing contact between cops and people in crisis, the call to build them is merely “aspirational,” according to a presentation aired in court by the feds.

“This agreement has no influence on those services,” said Chris Bouneff, director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Oregon.

The US Department of Justice had called Bouneff as a friendly witness. The state and county, he said, “are not at the table and there’s nothing to compel them to be at the table to increase the type of services necessary. That element will be missing in this agreement.”

Jonas Geissler, an attorney for the US Department of Justice’s civil rights division in Washington, DC, hammered that point earlier in the hearing.

“Those agencies may be beyond the current reach of this” proposed legal settlement, Geissler said.

That admission came early in Tuesday’s watershed court session—the first chance for the public to sound off about a deal many think should go further, and the most substantive chance yet for the city and the feds to defend the particulars they negotiated specifically to avoid a court trial.

Simon, the judge, says he’ll decide if he likes it as early as mid-March.

That deal—which eventually gained the assent of the Portland Police Association—includes changes to how police are trained and use force. It gave way to the creation of a special mental health unit. It’s also fueled changes in oversight that have long been criticized for failing to empower civilians.

But Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland reacted dourly to the clarification about the treatment centers during a break in the proceedings. He invoked the names of Keaton Otis, Aaron Campbell, and James Chasse Jr.—all struggling with mental-health issues, all killed by Portland police during the past decade.

“What they needed was a safe sanctuary. I’m not sure training and policy would have made a difference,” Renaud says. “Those facilities would make a brick-and-mortar difference. ‘Aspirational’ is a broken promise.”

Ellen Osoinach, a deputy city attorney who helped negotiate the deal, told the court during the city’s presentation that the hazy commitment to building those facilities was intentional.

“Rather than obligate the city to run a mental-health facility,” she said, “the city accepted a requirement to work in cooperation with other government agencies.”

And as the city sees it, it’s lived up to its commitment, Osoinach said. For the past few years, the council has including a call for increased mental-health funding in its state and federal legislative lobbying wish lists.

“The city has followed through on that commitment by lobbying aggressively for increased funding for mental-health services for the past three years,” she told the court.

It was maybe the most surprising development to emerge from the long-promised hearing, the likely fault lines of which had been clear for months.

As expected, watchdog groups—including the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform (AMA) and Portland Copwatch—clamored for more robust civilian oversight. Copwatch urged the judge to alter the deal before approving it—something Simon says he’s not allowed to do. He can only say yes or no, if he decides what’s presented is “fair, adequate, and reasonable.”

The AMA said it supported the deal, but with reservations. Its members had hoped the feds would do away with a 48-hour window, enshrined in union agreements, that lets cops put off giving statements after using deadly force.

“We see the positive aspects as an opportunity to set a floor, not a ceiling. Not the end,” AMA President T. Allen Bethel told the courtroom. “This agreement must be monitored so that the city and the Portland Police Bureau can be held accountable by a higher and more powerful group than the city itself or the [police] association or the bureau.”

And groups representing black Portlanders—most notably the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, but also the Urban League of Portland and the AMA—reiterated their long-held disappointment the agreement sidestepped the concern that led the AMA to seek a federal investigation in the first place: racial profiling. They were dismayed by testimony from a police consultant who said the feds looked at those claims, but set them aside because of a lack of data.

In all, Simon invited more than 60 people and organizations to testify. The hearing was expected to go on so long that Simon offered to stay until the dinner hour, and move some testimony to the following day.

Realistically, getting the mental-health facilities built has always been a long shot. The agreement instructed the city to work with Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs)—new health-care providers set up to manage federal health-care reform and help dispense Medicaid.

Working with the CCOs would help the city tap into that federal cash. Two meetings were held in 2012, late in Mayor Adams’ term, to get the CCOs on board. But the groups said they had to get their feet beneath them. Little has changed more than a year later.

The police bureau still wants a drop-off center—but figuring out who will fund and manage it, and what services it might offer, has been difficult. Traditionally, mental-health treatment is the purview of the county.

Captain Mike Marshman, the police bureau’s police reform czar, admits it’s been easier to work on the parts of the deal the bureau controls.

“Those discussions are going on” with the state and county, he says. “It’s a slow, slow process.”

Renaud started working with Mayor Charlie Hales‘ office on the idea last January. He was part of a task force that included county officials and Hales’ former public safety director, Baruti Artharee.

By November 2013, Renaud was ready to pitch Hales’ office for budget help. He said a 22-employee walk-in center would cost a little more than $2 million to start up and run for a year. The center was not included in the city’s most recent budget documents.

“There’s lots of money,” Renaud says. “It’s just being spent on other things. What happens the next time someone dies?”

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The Portland-Area Addresses that Keep Cops, Firefighters, and Paramedics Coming Back—Again and Again

Posted by admin2 on 15th January 2014

The 911 Files: The Portland-Area Addresses that Keep Cops, Firefighters, and Paramedics Coming Back—Again and Again

From the Portland Mercury, January 16, 2014

Life is good when simply walking outside doesn’t mean having to remember to carry a gun—you know, just in case. At the very least, it’s a sign things are getting better.

I’d been skulking around the Arbor Mobile Home Park—a faded Hooverville of double-wides, campers, and trailers off NE Killingsworth—and I’d finally found someone willing to tell me about the place: a guy heading out to check his mailbox.

He was blunt. And not scared by my notebook. He’d clearly seen worse.

“This was a Wild West show around here. It was a combat zone,” said the man, not so willing to give his name, but terribly willing to chat about everything else—thefts, shootings, stabbings, garbage in the streets, “scum” neighbors who deal drugs, and new hope thanks to some changes this summer.

He was willing to show me around. So I told him why I was there.

DESTINATION 911

The Arbor, as quiet as it seemed on a gray weekday afternoon, had shown up quite prominently on a list of the 20 Portland addresses most responsible for 911 dispatches over the 12 months that ended last Halloween. Precisely 100 times in that span, data shows—about twice a week—a 911 call resulted in cops coming down to the park.

My guide wasn’t surprised. “I used to never walk around here without a gun,” he said way too breezily.

The Mercury, working with Commissioner Steve Novick‘s office and the Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications, had requested the 911 data last month in hopes of getting a better glimpse at some of the region’s most deeply rooted public safety challenges.

We thought the story might be about finding ways to save money at a time of budget wrangling and continued questions about city spending. Could officials save cash by proactively targeting certain addresses, thereby reducing disproportionate numbers of fire, medical, and police calls?

Maybe. But even if it’s good policy, it might not be worth the effort. Even the worst “offender” on the list—the Portland Rescue Mission, with its 345 dispatched calls—is responsible for just a fraction of a typical year’s hundreds of thousands of calls and dispatches. And many of these addresses already sit within the system’s crosshairs. Like the Arbor.

Instead, the data amounts to one more way to talk about problems and issues—like homelessness, gentrification, poverty, addiction, and crime—that Portland has come to know all too well.

“Some of these locations are simply going to generate a lot of calls through no fault of their own,” says Sergeant Greg Stewart of the Portland Police Bureau, referring especially to the handful of hospitals and assisted-living centers on the list. “Other locations serve a population that tends to create more public safety demands.

“We try to develop strategies that ensure individuals can receive services, remain safe but also not become an unsustainable drain on public safety resources.”

“IT NEVER GOES DOWN”

“It’s an easy target,” Jason Renaud, a volunteer with the Mental Health Association of Portland, says of the Portland Rescue Mission.

The building, presiding right where the Burnside Bridge touches down in Old Town, is infamous for its nightly queues of homeless Portlanders waiting for a chance at shelter or a meal.

Portland Rescue Mission wasn’t Renaud’s first guess for the top spot on the 911 list, but he allowed that it made sense. Of the 345 dispatches to the mission, only two-thirds were classified as medical.

“These are people who’ve gone without care for a long time. They’re cold, mad, and standing around. They’re often impaired. And that’s not a good mix,” Renaud says of the daily lines.

“Those are the lines that indicate whether community services are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. If that line goes down, I’ll feel better. But it never goes down.”

Alexa Mason, a spokeswoman for the Rescue Mission, says staff works with private security—like roaming Clean and Safe officers—to defuse problems before calling police. But sometimes, especially when someone’s in a mental health crisis, that’s not easy.

“Mental illness comes up a lot,” she says.

Mason also points to a rare service in the building’s lobby: a pay phone accessible 24 hours a day. Some people use it to report crimes. Others call for paramedics. And while staff will call 911 if needed, most people, if they can communicate, are expected to call for themselves.

“That’s probably why, particularly with medical issues, our numbers will be higher,” Mason says.

The Rescue Mission is hardly alone. Old Town and downtown, with high concentrations of shelter beds and subsidized and recovery housing, are disproportionately represented on the list.

Not far behind are places like the Greyhound bus station, Musolf Manor (a low-income 95-apartment complex on NW 3rd), and the Henry Building (recovery housing owned by Central City Concern).

Notably, the apartments for hard-luck addiction cases at Bud Clark Commons—which also houses a day center and shelter for the homeless—rank second on the list.

The Portland Tribune reported this month that drug problems are bad enough that city officials might declare the apartments, run by regional public housing agency Home Forward, a “nuisance.”

A housing official with Home Forward didn’t return calls as of press time.

But Tony Bernal of Transition Projects, the nonprofit that runs the Bud Clark Commons day center, says his agency is working up something that could help ease medical calls: stationing a nurse practitioner directly in the building.

“A lot of folks may use ERs or wait too long to go to health care providers,” he says. “We’re interested in being more proactive.”

SOMETIMES PEOPLE JUST DIE

The prevalence of assisted-living facilities and hospitals, along with shelters and public housing, isn’t terribly surprising. Medical calls account for nearly twice the number of police calls—and both dwarf fire and rescue calls.

People die. Or people nearly die. Or a crime victim shows up at a medical center, and an officer needs to come investigate.

Novick, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications, says the numbers aren’t high enough to take “dramatic” action like charging fees for ambulance and fire calls.

“It’s not like this is a huge percentage of our total,” he says.

But Novick thinks some conversations about reducing calls might be worthwhile. Multnomah County, he says, has hired outreach workers to talk to so-called “frequent fliers”—the common phrase for people who call up again and again for 911 and other services.

“It seems like it would make sense for someone to have a conversation like that with these organizations,” he says. “To the extent you have insurance companies paying for ambulance trips, they would have a financial incentive.”

Dealing with crime, compared to medical calls, is actually a much more direct challenge.

Stewart says North Precinct police officers have been working with Arbor Mobile Home Park in recent months. And residents say it’s gotten quieter. Maybe it’s because of new owners. Or maybe it’s because of a police raid—helped along by complaints and tips from neighbors—on a methamphetamine ring operating from an otherwise nondescript white trailer.

A woman nearby, with some 14 cameras protecting her trailer, remembers when her parents first moved to the park in the 1970s. It was tidy and a haven for retirees. Subleasing trailers, which blurs the lines of accountability, wasn’t allowed. That changed by the 1990s, she says. By 2006, things had gotten bad enough that the owners tried pushing a plan for condos.

Records don’t show it, but residents kept telling me the park had changed hands this summer, too. (The owners listed on the city’s property database couldn’t be reached for comment.)

The guy I spoke with, checking his mail, says he knows the park won’t ever be paradise. “We’re poor, and we try to take care of each other,” he says. That doesn’t mean it has to be hell.

YES, EAST PORTLAND SHOWS UP A LOT

The data also provides a predictable lesson on local geography—with some interesting findings mixed in nonetheless. Outer East Portland, from neighborhoods like Cully on out, was just as well represented as Old Town and downtown. Crime and poverty have been moving east for years, while neighborhoods closer in gentrify.

The Fred Meyer in Gateway—near Interstates 84 and 205, and just steps from the last eastbound stop serving the blue, red, and green MAX lines—was tops in all of Portland when it came to dispatched police calls. Its magic number was 142—essentially between two and three times a week.

The massive store, in the area for decades, sits on a giant parking lot and is a haven for people looking to keep warm and not pay for wireless internet. It’s also carved out a police substation where cops can hang out, write reports, or eat lunch.

Melinda Merrill, a spokeswoman for Fred Meyer, says security keeps an eye on shoppers inside and outside. But people shoplift. They sell drugs.

“They’re highly trained,” she says of the guards, “but they’re not police.”

Gateway is a big-box shopping destination. It’s also hardscrabble.

“It’s a bit of a perfect storm,” Merrill says, “with the neighborhood and the MAX.”

Not far behind, with 109 dispatched police calls according to the data, is the 7-Eleven at SE 82nd and Powell. Store workers and shoppers, most of them buying cheap alcohol and cigarettes on a recent weekday afternoon, called the parking lot a heroin market and way station for people recently released from the hospital or jail.

The store, which anchors a small strip mall, doesn’t have security. It calls the cops when things get out of hand, a manager hastily explained before annoyed customers interrupted his cigarette break.

Stewart, with the Portland police, says hotspots like the 7-Eleven can be helpful if they “perform a guardianship-type function,” calling in crimes and keeping cops clued in.

But sometimes, Stewart said, it’s the store and not the neighborhood.

“In the bad cases,” he says, like when stores sell booze indiscriminately, “they can add to problems.”

WELCOME TO GRESHAM

Finding the place with the most dispatched police calls, however, requires leaving Portland altogether.

That’s because the bureau of emergency communications provided two top-20 lists: one for Portland, and another for the bureau’s entire service area—including Troutdale, unincorporated Multnomah County, Fairview, and, of course, Gresham.

Gresham, with almost 109,000 residents, is a little more than one-sixth the size of Portland. It nonetheless finds itself with seven addresses on that regional list, four of them with police calls high enough to see cops dispatched two or three times a week.

The top spot, the Holly Ridge Apartments on Powell, felt like a surprise. Especially after I visited.

The giant complex, with 163 dispatched police calls, was tidy and quiet. Professional staff in a well-appointed leasing office greeted me warmly, until they heard what I was asking. Then they laughed, took my name for a corporate minder, and kindly said they had standing orders telling press to leave.

That didn’t compute for Lieutenant Claudio Grandjean of the Gresham Police Department. He said he’d expected to find two other complexes—the Rockwood and Rockwood Station Apartments, smaller places known as gang hotspots—ranked higher in his city. (They were third and fourth.)

Gresham has increasingly been home to gang problems pushed out of Portland ["The Good Fight," Feature, Aug 15, 2013]. Gang strife is following a general eastward spread of poverty and other social issues. The border between the two cities is particularly porous.

“These problems are brand new to us,” Grandjean says. “Portland has a lot more experience. They’ve done it longer.”

Grandjean also says Portland has more resources—social services money and nearly 10 times as many cops, enough to create neighborhood units and do “proactive” policing. Gresham has one officer who makes time for that kind of neighborhood work during his regular patrol duties.

That’s helped reduce calls from some apartment complexes, Grandjean says. But it takes time. And working on a place with problems like, say, Cully’s Arbor Mobile Home Park, might take more time than cops in Gresham have.

This could mean we need to think more about how we spend our public safety resources as a region.

“You can drill down to the problem, and say, ‘Let’s take care of it,’” Grandjean says. “That should reduce calls. But we don’t have the personnel to do that.”

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Police pick former head of PSRB to help lead police & mental health reforms

Posted by Jenny on 22nd December 2013

From The Oregonian, Dec. 19, 2013

PPB

“It is a curious selection,” said Jason Renaud of the Buckley hire.

The former head of Oregon’s Psychiatric Security Review Board, who resigned while under investigation, is now working for Portland police, responsible for their compliance with federally mandated reforms.

Mary Claire Buckley, 59, resigned from her $99, 636 state board position this past summer amid complaints from her staff to state investigators that she was verbally abusive and threatening, often yelling and berating them, according to public records obtained by The Oregonian.

Read more of “Police pick former head of PSRB to help lead reforms” on OregonLive.com

READ – Juliet Follansbee named new executive director of Psychiatric Security Review Board, The Oregonian, November 13, 2013

READ – Who are the “Stakeholders” in Oregon’s Mental Health System? – special op ed for the Mental Health Association of Portland

READ – Mary Claire Buckley, while head of PSRB, was a bully who screamed and swore at staffers, according to interview transcripts, Salem Statesman Journal, July 25, 2013 [this story has been deleted from the Salem Statesman Journal web site, which is EXACTLY why MHAP created and maintains this web site - to assure public access to the history of mental illness in Oregon.]

READ – Mary Claire Buckley investigation interview transcripts (PDF, 6.2MB)

READ – PSRB executive director Mary Claire Buckley resigns, Oregonian June 18, 2013

READ – Buckley’s administrative leave from PSRB due to investigation of board management, Oregonian May 14, 2013

READ – Questions, investigations follow killing of mental health worker in St. Helens, Oregonian May 26, 2012

READ – all stories citing Mary Claire Buckley in the Mental Health Association of Portland archive.

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Man with Mental Illness Tased by Portland Police in Grocery Store

Posted by Jenny on 20th November 2013

By Sara Roth, KGW News, Nov. 18, 2013

Portland police tased a man armed with knives who was reportedly threatening shoppers and stealing at Whole Foods in Northwest Portland Friday. Officers recognized him from prior mental health incidents.

The incident happened at Whole Foods at 1210 NW Couch St. around 8:30 a.m. Friday, according to the Portland Police Bureau. It was captured on an eight-minute citizen video posted on YouTube.

The person who posted the video casts the police in a negative, but bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson encouraged people to watch it as a textbook case of police following proper procedures.

“It shows the distance the officers kept,” he said, “They didn’t force a confrontation. They were very patient, very calm.”

Store employees said the suspect shoplifted merchandise and then grabbed knives off of a rack. When employees asked him to leave, he refused.

A responding sergeant at the scene said he recognized the man and knew he was struggling with mental health issues.

Officers surrounded the man, asked him by name to put down the knives and told him he would be tased if he didn’t.

After several minutes, the sergeant tased the man. The suspect fell to the ground but continued to struggle with officers.

Police said three additional Taser cycles were needed to safely gain control of the man and put him into handcuffs.

The man suffered a bloody nose during the altercation. He was cited for disorderly conduct and menacing and taken to a Portland hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland said “it does seem to be a well-managed takedown of a person carrying a weapon in a public place.” That said, funding needs dramatically increase to help the mentally ill like the man arrested, he said.

Police said the bureau’s behavioral health unit would conduct a follow-up with the man.

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MHAP, others will offer testimony on police review

Posted by Jenny on 24th October 2013

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, Oct. 23, 2013

PPB shieldA number of proposed Portland City Code changes that would expand the powers of the Independent Police Review Division and require more information be made public on the police chief’s disciplinary decisions are to go before City Council this afternoon.

The League of Women Voters, Portland Copwatch and the Mental Health Association of Portland already have weighed in, releasing their written testimony.

Portland Copwatch will urge the council not to adopt the proposed changes. The police watchdog group argues that the changes only add power to the professional staff working for the city’s Independent Police Review Division, the intake center for complaints against Portland police, yet do not significantly strengthen the citizen panel that hears complainant’s appeals of police investigative findings.

“While many of the proposed ideas are good first steps, they do not go far enough to ensure thorough, independent and transparent oversight of the police,” wrote Dan Handelman, who runs the police watchdog group Portland Copwatch.

Jason Renaud, of the Mental Health Association of Portland, called the existing citizen complaint process “daunting,” especially for people suffering from mental illness.

“The paperwork, investigations, lengthy waits and public exposure are substantial barriers to participation,” Renaud in written testimony he’ll present to council.

Renaud suggests that the Independent Police Review Division hire peer mediators who share common life experiences with persons with mental illness. They would help guide a person through the complaint process, or offer an alternative -  a personal conversation with a specified officer, who will show up out of uniform and at a meeting site other than a police station.

“The opportunity to speak privately and face-to-face, is far more likely to result in meaningful and satisfying conflict resolution than a lengthy investigation and hearing,” Renaud wrote.

The co-presidents of the League of Women Voters said the league generally supports the proposed changes but asks that the council obtain more input from the community and the Citizen Review Committee. The league’s leaders said they’re concerned about what would happen to a complaint if an investigation is not completed by the proposed 180-day deadline.

“The League recommends that this process be slowed down so that the public’s voice can be heard,” the league co-presidents Margaret Noel and Kathleen Hersh wrote to council.

Under the proposed changes, investigators from Portland’s Independent Police Review Division could directly question and compel testimony from any officer or police bureau employee.

If a sworn officer or civilian member of the Police Bureau refused an interview, they could face discipline, up to discharge, by the chief or police commissioner. Employes would be told the date and time of the interview and would have the right to have a union representative present.

Portland Officer Daryl Turner, president of the rank-and-file union the Portland Police Association, said last week that he had not discussed the proposed changes with the IPR division director. He said such a change would be a subject of mandatory bargaining. He said he hoped to meet with the director to find out what the interviews would be used for.

“My job is to protect officers’ rights,” Turner said. “Right now, we will look at the proposal, meet with the city and in the end, hope there’s a collaborative effort to reach agreement.”

In another proposed code change, public reports on alleged police misconduct cases heard by the Portland Police Review Board, which recommends discipline to the chief, would be expanded to include the board’s recommended findings, the police chief’s proposed discipline and the final discipline.

If the chief imposes discipline different from the review board’s recommendation, the chief would have to provide a written explanation to the police commissioner.

The chief’s final discipline is not included in the public reports now.

The matter was raised when Police Chief Mike Reese last year disregarded the review board’s recommendation to fire then-Capt. Todd Wyatt and instead demoted Wyatt to lieutenant. The review board found Wyatt had inappropriately touched female employees under his command, wasn’t truthful about what had occurred and escalated an off-duty road rage encounter by flashing his gun and badge.

Mary-Beth Baptista, then director of the Independent Police Review Division, criticized the chief’s decision in the Wyatt case, saying it wasn’t what police accountability looked like.

Other proposed changes would alter the makeup of the Citizen Review Committee, now a nine-member volunteer group that hears appeals from people who have filed complaints against an officer and seek to challenge the bureau’s findings. The committee would grow to 11 members, and all would have to sign a confidentiality agreement.

The Independent Police Review Division also is recommending changes in Police Bureau command structure. The head of police internal affairs would report directly to the police chief, “given the sensitive nature of misconduct investigations.” That’s essentially occurring now but hasn’t been formalized. The chief also could delegate authority to start or complete a misconduct inquiry to the head of internal affairs.

The other proposed changes call for:

  • the creation of a police discipline matrix to guide managers and ensure fair and consistent discipline
  • all administrative investigations of alleged misconduct to be completed within 180 days.
  • Citizen Review Committee members to be appointed to serve on Police Review Boards in use of force cases.

The code changes will be presented to City Council at 2:10 p.m. this afternoon.

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Nevada hospital’s ‘patient dumping’ extended to Oregon

Posted by Jenny on 11th October 2013

By Carla Castano, KOIN 6 News, Oct. 11, 2013

Rawson-Neal patients were given one-way bus tickets to an unfamiliar city, and told "Call 911 when you get there."

Rawson-Neal patients were given one-way bus tickets to an unfamiliar city, and told “Call 911 when you get there.”

Documents obtained in a KOIN 6 News investigation show people with severe mental health illnesses were given one-way tickets from a state-run hospital in Nevada to Portland.

Accusations of “patient dumping” first surfaced in California in April. Now, KOIN 6 News learned the same state-run psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas sent at least 32 of its patients to cities in Oregon.

Those patients were given one-way Greyhound tickets to cities throughout Oregon — Salem, Tigard, Newport — but most ended up in Portland.

“They had only a few days worth of medications and no money,” said Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland. “This is causing homelessness by a psychiatric hospital which is charged with helping persons with severe and persistent mental illness.”

READ  – Our letter to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, sent 9/17

READNevada did bus patients to Oregon

READLeave the patients to us: Is Nevada unloading its mentally ill in Oregon? (Street Roots)

A class action lawsuit filed by San Francisco is how Portland’s Mental Health Association realized patients from Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital may also have gotten one-way bus tickets to Portland.

San Francisco found 31 other patients were sent to their city.

KOIN 6 News found 1500 questionable one-way tickets throughout the country over the last five years.

No one from the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital would speak with KOIN 6 News, nor would they disclose the status of the patients who received the one-way tickets.

A hospital communications person did send a statement that said from 2008 to 2013, the hospital discharged 31,000 patients, and of those, 8% were non-Nevada residents.

In September, the Mental Health Association of Portland put in a request with the Oregon Department of Justice to investigate. They have not heard back yet.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum‘s office told KOIN 6 News the staff is looking into it, but it’s too early to say if they will investigate.

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital

Double doors at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital

Double doors at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital

 

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Leave the patients to us: Is Nevada unloading its mentally ill in Oregon?

Posted by admin2 on 10th October 2013

From Street Roots, October 10, 2013

They were given a bus ticket along with a few days worth of medication and food. They traveled long distances to cities in California where they arrived as strangers. Their journeys have sparked outrage and lawsuits. Now there are calls to find out if it happened in Oregon.

greyhoundbusX copy

Following allegations that a psychiatric facility in Nevada improperly “dumped” patients in cities throughout California where they had no family and had no connections, the Mental Health Association of Portland is calling on the Oregon attorney general to conduct an investigation to determine if the Beaver State has also received improper discharges from the embattled hospital.

Earlier this year, The Sacramento Bee published a series of articles that alleges that the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital, a state-run institution located in Las Vegas, systematically engaged in “patient dumping” — euphemistically known as “Greyhound therapy” — for some of its indigent patients, shoveling the costs and responsibility of caring for these individuals onto another state. It’s the subject of two lawsuits, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which claim that the hospital involuntarily discharged the patients, bought them bus tickets to cities in California and sent them off with a supply of food and medications for several days. Some were instructed to access social services available in the city, according to The Bee.

Key evidence in the case are 1,500, one-way bus tickets to send patients to other cities. Street Roots has received copies of the tickets and found they include 29 one-way tickets to Oregon between 2008 and 2012 — 20 of them to Portland. The names of the passengers have been redacted to protect their identity, nor is there any information attached regarding the circumstances surrounding their trip.

“For a price of a bus ticket, hospitals can get rid of a difficult patient,” says Jason Renaud, spokesperson for the Mental Health Association of Portland, of the practice of patient dumping. The Mental Health Association has formally requested that Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum investigate whether there were any cases of patient dumping here in Oregon stemming from the Nevada case.

California’s class action lawsuit focuses on the case of James Flavy Coy Brown, who arrived in Sacramento after a 15-hour bus ride from Las Vegas, confused as to why he had been sent to a city where he had no contacts, according to The Bee. The paper’s report says Brown had been given instructions from the staff at Rawson-Neal to call 9-1-1 when he reached his destination. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed the lawsuit earlier this month against the State of Nevada and administrators at Rawson-Neal on behalf of local governments in California.

An investigation by Herrera’s office found that Rawson-Neal bused at least two-dozen patients to San Francisco without adequate food, water or medication and without arrangements for continued care when they reached the city. Twenty of these patients required medical care shortly after arriving in San Francisco, the investigation found. The suit seeks $500,000 to recoup the costs associated with providing shelter, medical care and other necessities for individuals bused to the city.

The suit alleges that Rawson-Neal administrators imperiled the safety of 500 patients bused to California, as well their fellow passengers on the bus rides and the residents of their destinations. It also alleges that Rawson-Neal administrators deliberately appropriated resources California had set aside for its indigent population.

“Rawson-Neal understood and expected that the bused patients would rely on San Francisco’s public health resources for continuing medical care, and specifically directed some of the patients to seek care at San Francisco public health clinics and shelter at San Francisco-supported shelter and care programs,” Herrera states in the complaint.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and Sacramento civil rights attorney Mark Merin filed a suit in June against administrators at Rawson-Neal on behalf of Brown and other patients wrongfully bused to California.

The suit alleges that patients’ constitutional rights were violated when the hospital involuntarily discharged them from the facility and sent them across state lines. The suit claims that patients were medicated before their discharge, forcing them to make the journey in drugged states, incapable of giving informed consent to what was happening to them.

Mary Woods, spokesperson for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, says that while there have been problems with the state’s Transportation Back to Home Communities program, they have been overblown.

According to Woods, when the department became aware that staff did not follow program policies, it immediately initiated a review. Between July 1, 2008 and March 31, 2013, the hospital purchased bus tickets for nearly 1,500 patients, or 4.7 percent of all discharges. An analysis of those discharges found only 10 instances over this time period where there was not enough documentation to know for certain if staff had confirmed that there was housing and other supportive services waiting for patients at their destination.

Woods also says that the hospital has terminated medical staff. It has also revised policies to require more thorough oversight of travel arrangements and for a chaperone to accompany the client to their destination, according to Woods. Additionally, she points out that the state has increased funding for mental health services, and a recent outside review of the Rawson-Neal facility was generally positive.

However, Gabriel Zitrin, spokesperson for the San Francisco city attorney, told Street Roots that the problems with Rawson-Neal really are that dire.

“Our suit represents the very tip of the iceberg,” he says, pointing out that 24 patients being sent to one municipality over the course over a five-year span suggests that there was a widespread problem at Rawson-Neal. He also says that those are just the instances uncovered by the city attorney’s investigation.

In August, a review of Rawson-Neal by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found evidence that there were significant problems with how the hospital discharged patients.

David Austin, spokesperson for Multnomah County, says that county staff handling social services haven’t seen any indication that Rawson-Neal was sending patients their way.

Renaud, of the Mental Health Association of Portland, says that the analysis from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services can’t be trusted to provide an objective assessment of patient dumping practices by the Rawson-Neal hospital. He says that the Oregon attorney general, which didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time, needs to look into the matter to determine if any Rawson-Neal patients, or patients from other facilities, were improperly sent to Oregon and to take legal action if necessary.

Patient dumping was once a fairly routine practice that has abated in recent years, says Renaud. Today, he says, it’s more likely to occur in small towns, which don’t have the resources to properly address mental health issues, where a local sheriff might take a mentally ill person to the edge of town and tell them to keep walking.

“That’s what people want to have happen to people with mental health and addiction problems. They want them to go away,” he says.

Renaud says that there are some mentally ill individuals who will improve with the right treatment, and there are some that simply won’t get better. Reduced budgets for hospital administrators have made some of their already-tough choices even tougher.

“So as a hospital administrator, are you going to spend money on people who are going to benefit, or are you going to spend money on people who are not going to benefit?” says Renaud. “It’s a real problem. It’s not just mean people or lazy people, but when you stress the system by underfunding it and undermanaging it you get these kind of problems.”

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‘Mental patient’ costumes pulled from U.K. stores, but you can buy the same or worse here

Posted by Jenny on 9th October 2013

"Goin’ Outta My Mind” costume available from Pure Costumes

“Goin’ Outta My Mind” costume available from Pure Costumes

By Jenny Westberg, Portland Mental Health Examiner, Oct. 9, 2013

When two U.K. chain stores pulled “mental patient” and “psycho” Halloween costumes from sale and apologized, it made headlines that stretched across the Atlantic, from the BBC to CNN, AP, Reuters and all points in between. Now, just a few days later, the story’s gone cold, a victim of the online world’s unquenchable demand for ever newer news.

Maybe too, it was death by unconcern. The Brits may give a rip about people with mental illness taking offense at what people wear for a single night of fun, but here in the States, perhaps the public does a collective eye roll and objects mainly to “making a big deal out of nothing.”

But it is a very big deal to many Americans with mental illness, their families and friends, according to Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland. He says such Halloween costumes are unfunny, harmful, cruel – and bigoted.

“Costumes portraying people with mental illness as dangerous or frightening are as discriminatory as a black-face minstrel show,” Renaud says.

In the U.S. it’s not two store chains; the offending merchandise is everywhere. Costumes of the same sort removed from stock in Britain are available from a multitudinous array of online and brick-and-mortar stores, with a wide variety of wearable caricatures to choose from.

Andrew Mayers, Ph.D., a U.K. psychologist and university lecturer, says when he saw the costumes later pulled, he was shocked.

“My initial reaction to seeing the images of the ‘mental patient’ Halloween costume, depicted as a blood-stained, axe-wielding psychopath, was one of horror and anger,” he says. “It went so much against what many of us in the U.K. have being doing to abolish stigma towards mental health.”

In Great Britain the horrified anger was widely shared. Public outcry was swift. Apologies were quick and sincere.

Here in the States, the sound and fury – what there’s been of it – has been muted, while “killer mentally ill”-type costumes are plentiful at U.S.-based stores such as these:

  • Pure Costumes:Goin’ Outta My Mind” costume,” a blood-spattered white dress with straitjacket sleeves and a cap emblazoned “Mental Ward.” The description says, “You can instantly transform into a sexy psycho with this eerie costume.
  • At the same store:Maniac Child’s Costume,” complete with bloody knife. Description: “The focus of this look will definitely be the maniacal mask. At first glance it’s a classic hockey mask that screams serial killer but this mask is more than meets the eye. It can split open, revealing the monster behind the mask.”

–Sears too? Yes, even Sears.

Mayers says the public outcry and positive response in the U.K. wasn’t just due to the efforts of mental health advocates, but from people with mental health diagnoses themselves.

He says his initial shock and anger at the costumes “was tempered by the amazing reaction from folks with lived experience of mental illness, who posted pictures of themselves on social media sites looking quite ordinary, saying ‘this is me, a real mental patient.’ Not an axe in sight.”

Otto F. Wahl, Ph.D., in his book Media Madness, elucidates the ways distorted portrayals of mental illness influence public perception, even when they’re supposedly in fun, and especially among people who don’t know (or think they don’t know) any people with mental illness. Without real experience, fed on a constant stream of newspaper stories, movies, TV, commentary, reviews, sound bites, graphics, books, cartoons and websites that constantly connect violence and mental illness, the public believes it more and more. They become afraid. They become hostile. They believe in “the monster behind the mask.”

Wahl cites a study that found, in Jum Nunnally’s words, “The mentally ill are regarded with fear, distrust, and dislike by the general public. Old people and young people, highly educated people and people with no formal training – all tend to regard the mentally ill as dangerous, dirty, unpredictable, and worthless.”

Renaud agrees, and points to the costumes as a factor in negative perceptions.

“Even in holiday jest these costumes carry an ignorant and demeaning message, that persons with mental illness are dangerous or frightening,” he says.

And, he insists, it’s a very big deal.  “It is prejudiced, ignorant and hostile to the welfare of the world.”

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