1 in 6 people has a common mental illness at some point in their life (Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, 2000).
About 1% of the population experience schizophrenia at some point in their lives (Mental Health Foundation, 1999).
About 1% of the population experience manic depression at some point in their lives (Mental Health Foundation, 1999).
1 in 200 people have experienced a psychotic illness in the last year (Singleton, Psychiatric Morbidity, 2000).
The average age of onset of psychotic symptoms is 22 (Department of Health, 2001)
Deprived areas and rural districts have the highest levels of mental health problems and suicides (ONS, 2001).
People from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds are 3-5 times more likely than others to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital for schizophrenia. (Mental Health Foundation, 1999)
About 25% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia will make a full recovery; about 60% of people will have fluctuating symptoms; about 10-15% of people experience long term incapacity (Mental Health Foundation, 1999).
35% of people with mental illness are unemployed but want to work (ONS, 2003), the highest want to work rate of any disability.
Only 1 in 4 employers said that they would knowingly employ someone with a history of mental illness (Manning et al, 1995).
Three quarters of employers say that it would be difficult or impossible to employ someone diagnosed with schizophrenia (DWP, 2003).
Less than 5% of people who kill a stranger have symptoms of mental illness (Department of Health, 2001).
People with mental illness are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence (Walsh, 2003).
More than 1 in 4 people with severe mental illness report being shunned when seeking help (Rethink, 2003).
30% of GPs’ time is spent with people with mental health problems (Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health (Maudsley Monograph, 2002).
44% of people with mental health problems report discrimination from general practioners, such as physical health problems not being taken seriously (Mental Health Foundation, 2002).
Almost 80% of carers for someone with a severe mental illness say that caring has had an impact on own their mental health (Rethink, 2003).
Almost 80% of carers for someone with a severe mental illness say that caring has had an impact on their own physical health (Rethink, 2003).
Only 48% of mental health professionals know about local policies on sharing information with carers (Rethink/IoP, 2006).
Mental health problems cost the economy untold billions per year through care costs, economic losses and premature death. (Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, 2003).
21% of people with schizophrenia have a dual diagnosis (Cantwell, 2003).
Up to half of people dependent on alcohol have a mental health problem (Turning Point, 2003).
People with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder die 10 years younger due to physical health problems (British Journal of Psychiatry, 2000) and have double the average rate of heart disease (British Journal of Psychiatry, 2006) and five times the average rate of diabetes (Department of Health, 2004).
People with severe mental illness smoke twice as much as average, do half as much exercise and eat less fruit and vegetables than average (Running on empty report, 2005).
Alien Boy Showtimes
April 23 - 5:30 PM
“Infuriating, tragic, heartbreaking and incendiary in equal measures... plays out like a horror film and leaves you absolutely breathless.”
~ AP Kryza, Willamette Week
As WW reported in January, mental health experts say building the 174-bed Junction City hospital adds the wrong kind of treatment beds in Oregon, taking the state in the opposite direction from where it should go: toward smaller, less-expensive facilities located near high-population areas—including Portland.
But the Eugene Register-Guard reported May 10 that “it appears to be a virtual certainty that lawmakers will vote this year to spend the almost $80 million needed to build the structures and finish the project.”
The story says even opponents believe the facility—championed by Rep. Val Hoyle (D-Eugene) whose district would get 2,500 construction jobs and up to 600 permanent jobs—is inevitable. But that hasn’t stopped the Mental Health Association of Portland from starting a change.orgpetition to House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), asking her to reconsider the money.
“While wards in the newly built hospital in Salem stand empty, a new hospital, in a small town without resources, is unnecessary and unwanted by the mental health community,” the site reads. “Operations costs may reach hundreds of millions over decades of unwanted and unwarranted treatments”
So far, the change.org petition has 152 signatures. The bill that includes the funding for the hospital, Senate Bill 5507, will have three public hearings in Salem this month, the first being this Friday at 1:30 pm.
Eds. Note: The MHAP and most everyone associated with the mental health business – aside from those employed to build hospitals – oppose building a new psychiatric hospital / prison at Junction City.
As the new Oregon State Hospital remains under construction near Junction City, the area’s electricity provider is out several hundred thousand dollars in part due to delays on the project.
Blachly-Lane Electric Cooperative is out about $648,000 for 2013, mostly due to delays on the hospital project. The financial shortage has to do with the electrical cooperative’s pre-purchase of power from the Bonneville Power Administration in 2011.
Before 2011, Blachly-Lane was told by state officials that the new mental health hospital would be open in Junction City by 2013. That was the estimated opening date as early as 2007 when the project was first outlined by the state.
Adding to the power demand, Eugene-based Grain Millers Inc. was also expected to have a new Junction City-area facility open in 2013. Together, both of those facilities were expected to draw an additional eight megawatts of power, nearly doubling Blachly-Lane’s current load of twelve megawatts.
However, as it stands today, both the hospital and Grain Miller Inc.’s new facility have yet to be built.
Blachly-Lane is getting a partial refund on the pre-purchased power; however, it cannot get a full refund. In turn, the utility has had to make big cuts to its $12.2 million budget.
The utility is also asking the state for help, but so far it hasn’t had much luck.
“They’ve [hospital project liaisons] talked to their management team and tried to do their best to see what they can come up with, but they just don’t have the funds appropriated for that this year, so there is not much they can do,” said Joe Jarvis, General Manager of Blachly-Lane Electrical Cooperative.
“We’re just going to wait until they get a lot closer and it looks like it’s more of a concrete project and at that point we’ll work out some kind of contract so that this doesn’t happen again,” says Jarvis.
To make up the loss, Blachly-Lane has cut the equivalent of 1.5 full time employees, frozen all employee wages and cut almost all employee training and conference outings. It’s also switched employees to a new insurance plan.
The state is now saying that the Junction City mental health facility will be open by the end of 2014. Thus far, crews have done ground prep work on the site and improved the intersection of Mill Iron Road and Highway 99.
The road for the Oregon State Hospital in Junction City stretches across an open field, waiting to lead people to the state’s newest mental health facility.
State officials have spent $61.8 million preparing the land in the Lane County town 15 miles northwest of Eugene. New water and sewer lines run to the site.
But as with the road, so far they lead nowhere.
There’s no new hospital in Junction City yet. And many mental health advocates want to keep it that way.
Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposed 2013-15 budget calls for borrowing $79.4 million to build the hospital, which is already two years behind its original schedule.
Oregon has been undergoing a major effort to bring its mental health system into the modern age. The Oregon State Hospital, built in 1883, in Salem was literally crumbling when the state tore it down.
In its place, legislators approved $458 million for a new 620-bed hospital in Salem, intended to leave behind the days of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
But plans for the second hospital in Junction City are perhaps the least-known—and least-scrutinized—part of the state’s strategy.
And mental health advocates say building it would add the wrong kind of treatment beds in Oregon, taking the state in the opposite direction from where it should go: toward smaller, less-expensive facilities located near high-population areas—including Portland.
If the Junction City hospital opens (scheduled for 2015), the state would close a 90-bed state hospital campus in Portland and the 60-bed Blue Mountain Recovery Center in Pendleton. Blue Mountain and Portland accept civil commitments, people who pose a danger to themselves or others, not forensic patients, who have been found not guilty of crimes by reason of insanity.
That would leave the state without civil mental health facilities east of the Cascades and no beds in the Portland area, which accounted for nearly half of the state’s civil commitments last year
“We don’t do that for any other health condition,” says Chris Bouneff, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Oregon. “Imagine your loved one had a stroke and had to go into some long-term rehabilitation care and was from Portland, and we sent them to Junction City two and a half hours away.”
Linda Hammond, interim director of addictions and mental health for the Oregon Health Authority, says the Junction City hospital is necessary to replace the outdated Pendleton facility. The lease for the Portland branch expires in 2015.
Hammond says her agency wants smaller, locally based facilities, but they would take more time to set up than the state has. She estimates establishing a network of community-based care will take years.
“We can’t suddenly close Blue Mountain and Portland and put those people out on the street if there is not the infrastructure and services to meet their needs,” she says.
The U.S. Department of Justice has put pressure on the state to move away from larger hospitals, so in 2010 state officials cut the capacity of the proposed Junction City hospital to 174, from its original 360.
Overall, the new hospital would add just 22 beds to the state’s mental health system, Hammond says.
The long-term plan, she adds, is to hand over the Junction City facility to the state Department of Corrections, which owns the site.
Bouneff and other opponents say they’re skeptical that will ever happen.
He says smaller facilities of 16 or fewer beds in locations across the state would save money, allow the state to collect Medicaid reimbursements that it can’t with a large hospital, and keep patients nearer their homes.
The lack of good reasons to build a big, new hospital so far from Portland, he adds, has led him to one conclusion: “This is pork, pure and simple.”
The Junction City hospital would bring about 2,500 construction jobs to Oregon’s economy and 500 to 600 sustained jobs once it opens, says state Rep. Val Hoyle (D-Eugene), whose district includes the hospital site.
But to call it pork for her district is “insulting and wrong,” Hoyle says.
The governor’s budget, she points out, includes $1 billion for community mental health and addictions treatment—a 43 percent increase from the current budget.
Hoyle calls the plans “80 percent” of what advocates want. “If I didn’t think that this was a necessary part of our mental health system, then I wouldn’t be fighting for it,” she adds.
Kitzhaber and Democratic legislative leaders want to approve the hospital.
Despite their backing, Rep. Carolyn Tomei (D-Milwaukie), chairwoman of the House Human Services and Housing Committee, says the high costs of doubling down on larger institutions rather than providing community care could give lawmakers pause.
“It could be stopped if enough of a swell of the population says, ‘Wait, this doesn’t make sense,’” Tomei says. “But I don’t think it will happen.”
Good morning. It is wonderful to be back here in Portland. I am honored to join Mayor Adams, Chief Reese, and my colleague U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall to report on the results of our investigation of the Portland Police Bureau, and to discuss the road ahead. Today is an important and exciting day for the people of Portland, and for the dedicated men and women of the Portland Police Bureau.
I would like to thank Mayor Adams and Chief Reese for their cooperation throughout this investigation. When we announced our investigation, Chief Reese observed that this is a “unique opportunity to be at the forefront of best practices.” You correctly noted that Portland is not the only city that is addressing the difficult issue of providing police services to people with mental illness. Mayor, you noted at our announcement that you were “humbled in the knowledge that we don’t have it all figured out.” Both the Mayor and the Chief expressed an understandable and well-founded pride in your police department, and pledged their complete cooperation. They delivered on that pledge, were consistently responsive to our document requests, maintained an open door and open file policy throughout our site visits, and have been very receptive to our feedback. I would also like to thank the officers of the Portland Police Bureau for their cooperation and feedback. Our job is to make your job safer and more rewarding. Finally, we are very grateful to the community. We held a town hall meeting, conducted scores of interviews, and listened and learned from so many community members. Your perspective was and continues to be critical, and we will continue to seek out your views.
As a result of the cooperation we received throughout the investigation, we made remarkable progress in record time. As U.S. Attorney Marshall pointed out, we have completed our review; we have diagnosed the problem; identified its root causes; and have reached a preliminary agreement with the city of Portland and PPB, which will remedy the problems and enhance both officer and public safety, while allowing PPB to be at the forefront of best practices.
As U.S. Attorney Marshall outlined, for more than a year, the Justice Department has been conducting an in-depth investigation of PPB’s use of force, with a particular focus on its interactions with people with mental illness or in mental health crisis. Our review was prompted in large part by the high number of officer involved shootings of people with mental illness. The investigation was driven by a single goal: to ensure that Portland is served by an effective, accountable police bureau that controls crime, respects the Constitution, and earns the trust of the public it protects.
Our investigation was exhaustive and was conducted by department attorneys, investigators and subject matter experts, including police practices experts and a psychiatrist who specializes in working with law enforcement to develop models for effective interaction with people with mental illness. We conducted a thorough review of use of force by PPB officers, which included reviewing thousands of pages of documents, and conducting extensive outreach to the community, through hundreds of interviews with community members, mental health service providers, city officials, PPB officers, supervisors and command staff. We looked at a range of police interactions, including encounters with people who have mental illness or were perceived to have mental illness. Let me focus on the problem we identified. Based on our review, we have concluded that, while most uses of force were lawful, there is reasonable cause to believe that PPB is engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force against people with mental illness, or those perceived to have mental illness. We found that encounters between PPB officers and persons living with mental illness too frequently result in a use of force, or in a higher level of force than necessary. We further found that, when dealing with people with mental illness, PPB officers use electronic control weapons, or tasers, in circumstances where the use of tasers was not justified, or deploy them more times than necessary. Finally, in situations where PPB officers arrest people with mental illness for low level offenses, we found that there is a pattern or practice of using more force than necessary in these circumstances.
It is important to reiterate that the challenges we identified here are not unique to Portland. Police work has transformed dramatically in recent years. One Portland officer described how years ago, encounters with people who have mental illness were few and far between. Today, it is a daily occurrence for most officers, and often occurs more than once per day. Communities across the United States are wrestling with how to deliver police services to people with mental illness. We have seen and are working on these issues in other communities and believe that the work we do here in Portland will serve as an important guidepost for communities facing similar challenges.
Let me next turn to root causes. We conclude that deficiencies in policy, training and supervision contribute to the problems we identified. These underlying deficiencies have existed for many years, and precede the tenure of Mayor Adams and Chief Reese. While they did not create the problems, they own the problems, and they have accepted ownership of both the problems and the solutions. They wasted no time in beginning the reform process. A number of critical reforms are already in place. When we presented our findings to them, we immediately pivoted to brainstorming and problem solving, even though they did not agree with everything we found.
As a result, we have reached a preliminary agreement with the city and PPB about the path forward. We have developed a blueprint for sustainable change that will enhance public safety and officer safety, ensure constitutional policing, and enhance public confidence in PPB. The blueprint, which we are in the process of memorializing into a binding, court enforceable agreement, will require PPB to do the following:
Develop state of the art policies and protocols for interacting with people who have mental illness or are perceived to have mental illness;
Dramatically expand its capacity to provide services to people with mental illness by expanding its mobile crisis unit, establish a mental health desk at the Bureau of Emergency Services so that 911 calls are properly funneled to the appropriate response team, and assist in leading efforts to increase community mental health treatment options, such as 24 hour walk-in centers and other facilities that expand options for police officers seeking to assist a person who is experiencing a mental health crisis;
Revamp and expand training related to crisis intervention and use of force;
Enhance usage of its early warning system to better identify officers whose actions may require review;
Ensure that effective supervisory and accountability systems are in place to review use of force; and
Create a mechanism for ensuring that community stakeholders and front-line officers have a meaningful opportunity to weigh in on critical reforms.
Before we finalize any agreement, we want to go back to the community and hear from them again, and hear from other key stakeholders, including police officers. To all who have weighed in during this process, I recognize that this is your agreement; this is your department; this is your community, and we want to ensure that your voice is heard.
I am very excited about our blueprint, and look forward to hearing feedback from key stakeholders in the days ahead. Our goal is to complete our work in the next month.
I am acutely mindful of the fact that this agreement alone will not solve the problem in its entirety. Our findings take place against the backdrop of a statewide mental health infrastructure that has a number of key deficiencies. The absence of a comprehensive, community-based mental health infrastructure means that front line officers confronting a person experiencing a mental health crisis frequently have only two options: take the person to jail or the emergency room. In communities across the country, the largest mental health facility is the jail. That isn’t right. People in mental health crisis are sick, and generally don’t belong in jail. The largest mental health facility in a state or county shouldn’t be the jail. Officers must have additional options, and people in crisis must have additional options. We have worked successfully with other states, such as Delaware, to build a comprehensive community based mental health infrastructure. As the United States Attorney mentioned, we are working here in Oregon with state officials in a constructive, collaborative fashion on the development and implementation of a holistic, community based mental health infrastructure that, when implemented, will enhance both officer and public safety.
Our formal findings in this case are focused on PPB’s interactions with people who have mental illness. While the bulk of our investigation focused on this area, it was not limited to this area. A number of additional concerns were brought to our attention. While we did not make any formal findings regarding these additional concerns, it is impossible to ignore the tensions that exist between PPB and certain communities of color in Portland. Last year, Mayor Adams noted that one reason he welcomed our presence was his hope that this would lead to improved relations between PPB and Portland’s communities of color. We heard consistent and serious concerns from across the city that members this community, particularly the African American community, believe that they are subjected to bias stops and force based on their race. Although these tensions predate Chief Reese’s tenure, they persist to this day.
Our agreement with the city will begin to address these important issues in two ways. First, the new policies, procedures, training and accountability surrounding force will help ensure that unnecessary and unreasonable force is eliminated. Second, a community body will be created to monitor the agreement, collect feedback from the community and provide recommendations to PPB and the department. The mechanism for community engagement and input that we are creating as part of this resolution will not be limited to mental health issues. Rather, it is deliberately designed to create an opportunity for dialogue and action between PPB and communities of color.
Considerable work lies ahead. Change is not easy. Change requires time, persistence, partnership, a sound plan, resources, effective leadership and sustained community engagement. All the ingredients are here in Portland. We have made great progress. I am very confident that we will achieve Chief Reese’s goal of placing PPB at the forefront of best practices. Portland is a great community, and when these improvements are fully in place, it will be an even greater community.
The Department of Justice Reviews The Portland Police Bureau
September 13, 2012
When the Department of Justice announced a federal investigation into our officers’ use of force last year, I said that I welcomed the inquiry and noted that we had even asked for a best practices evaluation. What I said then holds true today: “We are humble in the knowledge that we don’t have it all figured out.”
In its year-long investigation, the Department of Justice has committed to rooting out the issues this City and its Police Bureau face, especially in dealing with a growing population facing mental health crises. I am grateful for the expertise brought to bear in its evaluation.
The Oregonian, September 14, 2012
Mayor Sam Adams’ Statement 9/13/12
Two years ago, community leaders, Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman and I asked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to review the Portland Police Bureau for bias, regardless of whether or not it is intentional, unconscious or institutional. Anything.
During this federal investigation, we opened our books, our doors and our minds.
Yesterday, I received a 42-page letter detailing the findings of their 14-month investigation.
It includes a critique of our financially-starved community-based mental health system. It states, “Our findings take place against a backdrop of a mental health infrastructure that has a number of key deficiencies…” with, “…insufficient options for adequate community based mental health services.”
Given our anemic community-based mental health system, I appreciate that the findings note that the already tough job of our police officers has gotten even tougher, with situations that “…often shifts to law enforcement agencies the burden of being first responders to individuals in mental health crisis.”
In my last budget, this local mental health system crisis was a key reason I did not cut sworn police or firefighter positions. My thanks to the hardworking officers of the Portland Police Bureau for working in a tough situation.
I am pleased that the findings state that, “…most uses of force we reviewed were constitutional…” that “…many of the systemic deficiencies discussed in this letter originated prior to the current PPB administration, which has been aggressive in pursuing reform.” I agree, we have a great improvement-minded Chief of Police in Mike Reese.
But the findings are blunt in its assessment that we get a failing grade dealing with the growing number of Portlanders who face serious mental illness and addiction. We occasionally use, “…unnecessary or unreasonable force during interactions with people who have or are perceived to have mental illness.”
Without defensiveness or finger pointing, we all need to absorb the seriousness of this critique and the urgent need for change. We all need to take our portion of the responsibility to improve the situation.
We will improve and we will begin to do it quickly.
Some needed changes are already underway. Like our new Police Training Center and Citizen Advisory Council. Like the diverse classes of new police recruits, drug testing and officer evaluations. I have agreed in concept to others changes in the letter of agreement:
1 Use of Force: The City is committed to revise its use of force policies to ensure that officers have necessary guidance when encountering someone with mental illness or perceived to have mental illness. In particular, the City will enhance its policy guidance on the use of Electronic Control Weapons (ECW) and techniques to de-escalate encounters arising from non-criminally related well-being checks and arrests for low level offenses.
The Chief’s initiative to ensure that supervisors respond to the scene of uses of force will be continued and there will be meaningful use of force reviews through the chain of command. Training curricula will be reviewed and adjusted where appropriate to reflect the requirements of the agreement.
2 Crisis Intervention: PPB will continue to provide crisis intervention training to all officers. In addition, it will expand its Mobile Crisis Unit to ensure availability at all times and enhance non-law enforcement capacity to respond to persons in crisis that do not pose a public safety threat. Each Mobile Crisis Unit team will consist of one specially trained officer and one specially trained mental health worker from a local social services agency.
The City agrees to establish a mental health desk at Bureau of Emergency Communications (911) staffed by trained dispatchers to ensure that calls are properly dispatched. BOEC will also direct suicide prevention/mental health calls to the County Crisis Call Center or Lines for Life when on-site PPB response is not appropriate.
The City also agrees to lead efforts to increase community mental health treatment options, such as through the establishment of a 24 hour secure drop-off and walk-in center that will provide police officers more options when assisting persons experiencing a mental health crisis.
3 Early Intervention System: The City has a robust Early Intervention System (EIS) that can track officer specific information as well as unit level and trend data. The City will utilize the system to identify individual officers, supervisors, and units for non-punitive corrective action, and to assess gaps in policy, training, supervision and accountability.
4 Misconduct Investigation: Investigations of allegations of officer misconduct are effective and fair to the officer, complainant and community only if they can be completed in a timely manner. The City agrees to take necessary steps to expedite the investigations of those complaints while preserving the thoroughness and quality of investigations and community participation.
5 Community Engagement and Outreach: Community participation in the oversight of this agreement will be important to its success. A community body will be adopted to assess on an ongoing basis the implementation of this agreement, make recommendations to the parties on additional actions, and advise the Chief and Mayor on strategies to improve community relations. The body will also provide the community with information on the agreement, its implementation and receive comments and concerns. Membership will be representative of the many and diverse communities in Portland, including persons with mental illness, mental health providers, faith communities, minority, ethnic, and other community organizations, and student or youth organizations.
These reforms and new resources will propel the Portland Police Bureau further down the path as it becomes the best local peacekeeping agency in the nation.
I welcome your thoughts and ideas.
Sam Adams – Portland Mayor
Feds: Portland Police Bureau has pattern of excessive force
A U.S. Department of Justice investigation concluded that the Portland Police Bureau engages in “a pattern and practice of excessive use of force,” specifically when dealing with the mentally ill, U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall announced Thursday.
The investigation found such use of force violates the U.S. Constitution. Still, she said, the problems revealed in the probe are not unique to Portland and the vast majority of PPB’s use of force falls within constitutional limits.
The investigation was launched in June, 2011 to examine the use of deadly force against all citizens, with a specific look at the mentally ill.
The PPB had a “high number of officer-involved shootings, especially those involving people with mental illness,” Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez explained at a press conference Thursday.
The findings revealed that too often Tasers and other uses of force were used when they were not necessary, Perez said.
He said training deficiencies within the department helped lead to the civil rights issues, and department has wasted no time in beginning the process of improving.
The investigation followed several controversial police shootings, including the death of Aaron Campbell. The January 2010 incident sparked protests and one officer was fired for his use of deadly force.
Another high-profile case was the death of James Chasse, who died in PPB custody after an encounter with police in Old Town in September 2006. Officers said Chasse appeared to be urinating outdoors and when he tried to get away they tackled him. His autopsy revealed that Chasse suffered 26 rib fractures and a punctured lung.
Investigators said they would look for systemic problems within the PPB and would also meet with community leaders outside of the bureau.
A federal investigation has concluded the Portland Police Bureau has a pattern of excessive use of force, and a mental health advocate told KGW the findings should be seen as a positive step.
But he said the agreement between the Dept. of Justice and the bureau lacks the teeth to effect significant change.
Chris O’Connor is a local attorney and board member of the Mental Health Association of Portland.
He agrees with the conclusion that there is a lack of infrastructure to deal with people suffering from mental issues. But he does not agree that the suggested policy changes laid out Thursday–like expanding the city’s mobile crisis team–will reduce excessive use of force cases involving the mentally ill.
“At the end of the day, there’s still no power in the hands of civilians,” O’Connor said, “to remove dangerous officers or discipline in a meaningful way, those who are violating their own policies,”
O’Conner believes local governments need to redirect resources to provide mental health services up front, instead of arresting and incarcerating people suffering from them.
Report: Portland police using excessive force against mentally ill
Portland police officers use excessive force against people with mental illnesses, a U.S. Department of Justice report has found.
The Justice Department presented its findings in a press conference Thursday in downtown Portland. The investigation, which began in June of 2011, determined that the “Portland Police Bureau (PPB) has engaged in an unconstitutional pattern or practice of excessive force against people with mental illness,” according to a press release.
The joint investigation by the Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon focused heavily on the police response to mental health situations. There was “reasonable cause to believe that PPB engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, in certain contexts,” the department said.
Specifically, the report found that officers are often utilizing Tasers for situations that do not justify their use, and furthermore, that they frequently Taser someone more times than necessary. It also found that officers will often use excessive force for what it termed “low level offenses.”
At Thursday’s press conference, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez said that over the last three years, Portland police have used deadly force 12 times, 10 of which involved people with mental health issues. Perez cited longstanding training practices as the root cause of the problem.
“These underlying deficiencies have existed for many years, and precede the tenure of Mayor Adams and Chief Reese,” Perez said. “While they have not created the problem, they own the problem, and they have indeed accepted ownership of both the problems and the solutions that lie ahead.”
The Justice Department stated that the 42-page report was presented to Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Portland Police Chief Mike Reese, who were in attendance at Thursday’s press conference. A preliminary agreement has since been reached to make changes to PPB officer training, practices and supervision, the Justice Department said.
Perez disclosed that Portland police cooperated fully with the over one-year long investigation, maintaining what he called an “open door policy.”
In response to the report, Adams issued a statement that read, in part:
“The findings are blunt in its assessment that we get a failing grade dealing with the growing number of Portlanders who face serious mental illness and addiction… Without defensiveness or finger pointing, we all need to absorb the seriousness of this critique and the urgent need for change.”
The mayor laid out a series of changes that will be implemented, including setting up a mental health desk at the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) and expanding its Mobile Crisis Unit, which handles mental health calls.
Feds: Portland Police Bureau uses ‘excessive force’ with mentally ill
The Department of Justice said Thursday that the Portland Police Bureau violated the U.S. Constitution by engaging in a “pattern or practice of excessive force against people with mental illness.”
The Justice Department opened their investigation in June 2011 after an 18 month period where Portland police officers were involved with eight shootings with mentally ill people.
“The findings are very blunt in their assessment that we get a failing grade for dealing with the growing number of Portlanders dealing with mental health issues,” said Mayor Sam Adams.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez said investigators found a pattern of excessive force against both people with mental illnesses or people perceived to have mental issues. That includes using force that wasn’t justified or using more force than was necessary.
“We conclude that this pattern or practice results from deficiencies in policy, training and supervision,” the report said. “We recognize that many of the systemic deficiencies discussed in this letter originated prior to the current PPB administration, which has been aggressive in pursuing reform”
Perez said the Justice Department and the city have reached a preliminary agreement on improvements, such as increased training, expedited investigations and a new oversight committee.
Perez and U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall both sounded optimistic during a news conference about the report when they talked about how the city could fix problems moving forward.
“There is no city in America with a better track record of working together to find solutions to problems such as these,” Marshall said
Perez said Portland’s mayor and police chief cooperate
When looking at how Portland police officers used force, the report singled out stun gun use, saying officers frequently discharged them without justification or used them too many times on a given suspect.
The report also said officers too often used force for relatively minor offenses.
Federal officials also said Oregon’s statewide mental health system has “gaps in services” that often make the police the first responders when people are in a mental health crisis.
“Given the anemic community-based mental health system, I appreciate that the findings note that the already tough job of our police officers has gotten even tougher,” Adams said in an open letter to Portlanders about the findings.
The report found that officers often have the burden of being “first responders to individuals in mental health crisis.”
The police bureau said that between 2001 and 2011, the number of calls each year for people attempteing or threatening suicide has nearly doubled.
“As a law enforcement agency, over the last decade, we have had a dynamic shift from responding to criminal issues to responding to social disorder,” said police chief Mike Reese. “Unfortunately, our system has given officers less options to help people who are afflicted with mental health issues and sometimes concurrent drug and alcohol problems. We have not been adequately prepared for the changing circumstances in our community, related to mental health.”
Mayor Adams, Chief Reese and the federal officials behind the report said on Thursday they were committed to improving how the Portland Police Bureau deals with mentally ill people.
“Fundamentally I think we have to treat people with mental health crisis with compassion and empathy,” Reese said. “We can’t treat them the same way we do as someone that’s committed a bank robbery.”
To help achieve that, city and federal officials laid out a series of preliminary agreement of steps they city and police bureau will take. They include:
Establishing policies that give officers clear guidance when dealing with people who have a mental illness or who are perceived to have a mental illness. Specifically, the city will lay out techniques for officers to de-escalate encouters stemming from non-criminal welfare checks or for low-level offenses.
Having more specially-trained officers and civilians to deal with crisis situations
Having a system to identify gaps in policy, training and supervision
Expediting investigations about possible misconduct while still doing a thorough job
Creating a body to ensure community oversight of reforms
The City of Portland can be held legally responsible if these reforms are not implemented. The city and federal officials have to commit to a final agreement by October 12, 2012.
Daryl Turner, the president of the Portland Police Association, said he disagrees with the Justice Department’s position that Portland officers engaged in a pattern of unreasonable force against the mentally ill.
He also pointed out the report says what officers have been saying for years: Oregon’s mental health infastructure is broken and leaves officers as “frontline responders to the mentally ill.”
“The equation is simple,” Turner said. “We need more officers to help address the increased demands placed on them by a broken mental health infastructure.”
Federal officials have conducted similar reviews in other states. Seattle officials recently reached a deal with the Department of Justice, agreeing to court oversight and independent monitoring of the city’s police department.
The issue of how police deal with the mentally ill has been a topic for years in Portland.
The DOJ announced its Portland investigation in the aftermath of the death of Aaron Campbell, an unarmed man who was fatally shot by officers who responded to a call that he was threatening suicide.
Another prominent case involved the death James Chasse Jr., a mentally ill man who died after he was chased and tackled by officers after he was said to have urinated in public in 2006.
Q&A: DOJ Critical Of Portland Police Over Use Of Force
The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that the Portland Police Bureau has “engaged in a pattern and practice of excessive force against people with mental illness.”
OPB’s Kristian Foden-Vencil has been covering this issue and joins us in the studio now. Hello.
Kristian: Hi, Beth
Beth: This sounds pretty serious. Can you give us a little background?
Kristian: Absolutely. Last year, Mayor Sam Adams, Commissioner Dan Saltzman and many others called for a civil rights investigation into the police.
It came after a series high profile cases, like the shooting of Aaron Campbell, who was distraught over the death of his brother; and the death of James Chasse, who was mentally ill and died after being forcibly arrested.
So, the Department of Justice has now finished that investigation and delivered this report.
Beth: Apart from the finding that police use unreasonable force against people with mental illness, what else was in the report?
Kristian: Well it’s extensive and it found officers used stun guns when they weren’t justified – or stunned suspects repeatedly without reasonable cause.
One example in the report, involved a man who was screaming in his apartment. Police got a key and found him naked on the floor shouting for help. When he saw them, he leapt-up and ran towards them. But an officer immediately fired his stun gun. The man fell to the ground and when he attempted to get up, he was stunned three more times. Anyway, it turned out he was diabetic and experiencing a medical emergency.
So the report has several of those kinds of examples and it concludes that the police bureau acted unconstitutionally.
But I want to make it clear that the Justice Department did not to point to problems with individual officers. Instead, the Department found that there are key deficiencies in the mental health infrastructure which leave police as the line of last resort when dealing with the mentally ill. Here’s Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez.
Thomas Perez: “The challenges we identified in Portland, are not unique to Portland. Police work has transformed dramatically in recent years. I remember vividly a Portland police officers who described how, years ago, encounters with people who have mental illness were few and far between. Today that person pointed out, it is a daily occurrence.”
Beth: How have the police bureau and Mayor Sam Adams reacted?
Kristian: Well, the mayor said there’s a need for change and that the police bureau has already begun that change. He was also pleased the report highlighted the problems in Oregon’s mental health system.
Sam Adams: “Without defensiveness or finger pointing, we all need to absorb the seriousness of this critic and urgent need for change. We all need to take our portion of the responsibility to change the situation.”
Kristian: The chief of police, Mike Reese, took the report hard. He was sombre, but stressed that his agency has already entered into a preliminary agreement with the Department of Justice to rectify the situation.
He told me afterwards that his officers will be trained to look for the difference between a suspicious criminal and someone who is mentally ill or in crisis.
He said officers will be trained to de-escalate situations and check to see if someone is not taking commands because they’re being belligerent or because they’re having mental health problems.
Finally, he said he’s hoping for new tools, that will provide officers the information they need when they’re in a tricky situation.
Mike Reese: “There’s a lot of information that health care providers have, that we don’t have access too and in a moment of crisis I think we should access to that information if we’re going to provide a better service to that person. Conversely we have a lot of information we would be happy to share with mental health providers so that they know this person is interacting with police frequently. There are things we can do in terms of dispatch protocols. So when dispatchers take that 911 call from a citizen, and they ask, police, fire or medical, we want them to ask mental health.”
Beth: Finally, how are people in the mental health community reacting to this report.
Kristian: Good question. In a nutshell, they’re pleased. Derald Walker of Cascadia Behavioral Health says he hopes this will wind up helping the mentally ill.
Derald Walker:“I think sometimes unfortunately what has to happen in these situations is that the Department of Justice has to step in, render an opinion and almost force our system to provide the funding necessary to really get us up to where we should be.”
Beth: So, what’s next?
Kristian: Well, a series of public meetings will be organized for the next month. That’ll give Portland residents a chance to look at the preliminary agreement — and perhaps add their own recommendations.
Beth: Thank you Kristian.
Kristian: My pleasure.
Justice Dept.: Portland police use excessive force, particularly against mentally ill
The Portland Police Bureau has engaged in a “pattern and practice” of excessive use of force, particularly against mentally ill suspects, the U.S. Justice Department has concluded after a 14-month investigation.
U.S. Attorney for Oregon Amanda Marshall announced the findings at a news conference Thursday.
Marshall said the findings of the report were “grave and serious.”
The report found problems with Portland Police Bureau’s policies, training and supervision.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez pointed to deficiencies in Oregon’s statewide infrastructure for mental health. He added that it was impossible to ignore the “the tensions that exist” between police and communities of color in Portland.
The federal inquiry also found that Portland police have too frequently used Taser stun guns on suspects.
Officials at the news conference said that the Justice Department and the police bureau had reached a preliminary agreement to implement changes that address the problems highlighted in the report.
The agreement calls for community feedback and input on Portland police practices.
Mayor Sam Adams, who also attended the news conference along with Police Chief Mike Reese, said, “Without defensiveness or finger-pointing, we all need to absorb the seriousness of this critique.”
He said the police bureau already has begun making changes, citing the creation of a new training center and police training advisory council.
“There is an urgent need for change,” Adams said.
Reese reacted to the report by saying, “It’s disappointing to learn the Department of Justice believes you haven’t got it right.”
But he also said he sees room for bettering the way the bureau works.
“We need to react to people in mental health crisis with empathy and compassion,” Reese said. “We can’t treat them the same way we treat a bank robber.”
He said the bureau needs to forge better relationships with social services partners.
“We all agree this bureau and this community can improve the way we serve Portland’s vulnerable population,” Reese said.
Feds find cause to believe Portland police use excessive force on mentally ill
Federal civil rights investigators have found “reasonable cause” to believe that police in Portland, Oregon, use “unnecessary or unreasonable force” with persons who have mental illness, the U.S. Justice Department said.
The department’s civil rights division and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon issued a letter to Portland Mayor Sam Adams stating that local and federal authorities will “continue our collaborative relationship to craft sustainable remedies.”
In the 42-page letter, federal officials outline remedies that include training and new policies to investigate alleged police misconduct.
Investigators found cause to believe that the Portland Police Bureau engages in “a pattern or practice of using excessive force in encounters involving people with actual or perceived mental illness.”
“We found instances that support a pattern of dangerous uses of force against persons who posed little or no threat and who could not, as a result of their mental illness, comply with officers’ commands,” said the letter, which was signed by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez and U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall.
“We also found that PPB employs practices that escalate the use of force where there were clear earlier junctures when the force could have been avoided or minimized.”
One incident in December 2010 involved several officers who used “repeated closed-fist punches and repeated shocking of a subject who was to be placed on a mental health hold,” the letter said.
Adams, in a posting on his web page, vowed that the city and its Police Bureau would improve quickly, and listed a series of changes:
– The city will revise its use-of-force policies — particularly those regarding the use of stun guns — “to ensure that officers have necessary guidance when encountering someone with mental illness or perceived to have mental illness.”
– The police will expand their Mobile Crisis Unit — composed of an officer and a mental health worker — “to ensure availability at all times and enhance non-law enforcement capacity to respond to persons in crisis that do not pose a public safety threat.”
– The city will establish a mental health desk at its 911 calling center to ensure calls are properly dispatched.
– The city will lead efforts to boost community mental health treatment options, such as establishing a 24-hour secure drop-off and walk-in center, “that will provide police officers more options when assisting persons experiencing a mental health crisis.”
– The city will use an early intervention system to identify officers, supervisors and units “for non-punitive corrective action, and to assess gaps in policy, training, supervision and accountability.”
– The city will move to speed investigations of complaints about possible officer misconduct.
– A community body composed of representatives of a variety of groups will assess how well the agreement is being implemented, offer recommendations on additional steps, and advise the police chief and Adams on how to improve community relations.
Justice Department cites five instances to show Portland Police’s pattern of excessive force
The U.S. Department of Justice pointed to five instances from 2010 and 2011, taken from a “larger group of problematic cases” to show the Portland Police Bureau’s pattern of excessive force. These are summarized from Justice Department findings and police reports of the incidents:
May 14, 2010: Police were called to Old Town to investigate reports of a man wandering in the street, spitting on cars and talking to himself. They found Aaron Emanuel Ferguson who “raised his fists to the officer’s face in an effort to show the officer his hospital identification bracelet,” the Justice Department report states. Assistant Sgt. M. Delenikos shoved his fist away and saw Ferguson take “a fighting stance.” He ordered him to back up and then pepper-sprayed Ferguson, who walked backward toward the street. Delenikos warned him to sit or he would use a stun gun on him, but Ferguson didn’t sit down. Delenikos fired his Taser at him four times, claiming that Ferguson “turtled up” and wouldn’t extend his arms to be handcuffed.
Among several issues, the Justice Department report notes that “spitting on passing cars is a low-level offense, if an offense at all and does not warrant this degree of force.” The federal investigators wrote that the supervisor found the use of force to be permissible “and no attempt to even counsel the officer on better tactics was even offered.”
Aug. 15, 2010: Police entered a downtown apartment where they heard the occupant yelling for help and believed him to be suffering a medical emergency. Inside, they saw Anthony Charles Caviness lying naked on the floor. He was unarmed. Police say he leapt up and ran toward them. Officer Joshua Sparks fired his Taser without warning at Caviness’ chest and repeated the cycle three more times. After police handcuffed him, officers learned he was diabetic and suffering a medical emergency.
Federal investigators noted, among other things, that “though the officers may have felt threatened when the individual ran towards them, this threat is mitigated, at least in part, by the presence of three PPB officers facing a naked, unarmed individual.”
Dec. 26, 2010: Two officers were called to help mental health workers who wanted to evaluate Samuel Michael Serrill at an Old Town apartment building. Serrill followed officers’ orders to come out of his room, put his hands on his head and take a seat. Officers verified he had no weapons. After Serrill made incoherent statements, the mental health workers asked police to detain him. Officers grabbed for his arms, but Serrill rolled onto his stomach, hiding his arms under his body, according to the Justice Department report. Officer Chad Phifer warned him to show his arms and then applied his Taser to Serrill’s back. Phifer continued firing it several more times as the man tried to pull away. Phifer then punched Serrill in the ribs as many as six times while Officer Kevin Allen hit the man with a closed first to the back of his neck and shoulders. The officers fired the Taser at him another six times before handcuffing him and taking him to a mental health hospital.
Among other issues, the Justice Department investigators noted “the officers were there to perform a welfare check, not to arrest someone for committing a crime.”
May 15, 2011: Officer Richard Storm went to check on an unarmed man who was standing in the rain in Southeast Portland for more than an hour. They couldn’t communicate because of a language barrier and Storm went to call for help from a Spanish-speaking officer. When Storm stepped out of his car, Fausto Brambila-Naranjo “kicked at” the officer but did not make contact, the Justice Department report states. Storm grabbed his leg and threw him on the ground. As Brambila-Naranjo rolled onto his back, Storm punched him seven to 10 times in the face while the man tried to grab the officer’s hands to stop the blows. After learning Brambila-Naranjo’s name, Storm recalled he had been reported missing by a group home that was concerned about his diabetes, according to his police report. The Justice Department investigators noted that Brambila-Naranjo was acting in self-defense from being hit in the face: “The officer made no attempt to explain in his (report on use of force) why so many punches to the head were necessary to control the subject.”
May 17, 2011: Officers were called to a home where 42-year-old Joseph James Dowless allegedly threatened his mother and hit her in the head. Dowless had a history of mental illness. Officers were told that he had a sword in his room. Police went up to the son’s room after he ignored their orders to come downstairs. They opened his door and ordered him to stand and put his hands on his head. Although Dowless stood up, he wouldn’t put his hands on his head and moved toward the door, the Justice Departmentreport states. Officer Gedemynas Jakubauskas shot him with a beanbag round. Officer Kevin Wolf wrote in his police report that Dowless then refused to interlace his fingers, prompting Wolf to fire his Taser at Dowless’ back. This occurred, the Justice Department report noted, even though Dowless’ hands were clearly visible and officers didn’t see a sword or any other weapon in his possession. “There were less intrusive alternatives available than shooting the suspect with a bean bag gun” and Tasing him, the federal report said.
Portland police promise improved approach to mental illness after scathing Justice Department report
Facing an ultimatum from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Portland Police Bureau Thursday pledged to pair more officers with mental health experts, bring back a specialized team of experienced officers to respond to mental health calls and help reroute certain 911 calls to mental health providers.
These are some of the reforms that the bureau has agreed to make after federal justice officials announced they’ve found Portland police have engaged in a pattern and practice of using excessive force against people who suffer from or are perceived to suffer from mental illness.
Many of the Justice Department’s recommendations aren’t new. Community activists, mental health advocates, lawyers who have sued the police bureau, and even some Portland officers have urged the bureau to take similar actions for years, without much success.
“On paper all of the recommendations seem to make sense, and actually parrot lots of complaints that the community and people like me have been making for a long time,” said Tom Steenson, the attorney who represented the families of James P. Chasse Jr. and Aaron Campbell, two men who died in police custody.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez released the highly critical report of Portland police use of force after a 14-month-long federal investigation. Perez stood with U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall, Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese in a police bureau conference room at the downtown Justice Center.
Marshall called the findings “grave and serious.” Yet Marshall and Perez said they’re confident the city of Portland would embrace the necessary reforms to ensure people from Portland’s most vulnerable population and their families aren’t afraid to turn to police for help.
The bureau and the Justice Department aim to finalize a more-detailed agreement by Oct. 12, after seeking further community input. The agreement will be signed by a federal judge and could be enforced by the court. Federal justice investigators would provide continued oversight.
“While we have indeed identified serious deficiencies” Perez said, “we have reached a preliminary agreement to improve public safety and to ensure the Constitution is respected.”
Perez highlighted the considerable gaps in mental health care in the state and the high number of homeless people in Portland as conditions that have forced police to serve as first-responders to people suffering mental health crises.
Adams acknowledged the city and police “get a failing grade” in dealing with the mentally ill. He estimated the changes may cost “millions of dollars,” and suggested the city will be working with the county, mental health providers and also pursuing federal grant money to help pay for them.
“Without defensiveness or fingerpointing, we all need to absorb the seriousness of this critique and urgent need for change,” Adams said.
The police chief described his initial reaction as one of disappointment.
“It’s disappointing to learn the Department of Justice believes you haven’t got it right.” Reese said. But while defending his officers, he pledged to move ahead with the reforms.
“We all agree this bureau and this community can improve the way we serve Portland’s vulnerable population,” Reese said. He added, “What we’re talking about today is about process and systems, not about police officers…They’re not the ones to blame. I support them.”
The Justice Department found that Portland police:
too frequently use a higher level of force than necessary against people suffering from mental illness;
use Taser stun guns when their use is unnecessary or fire repeated Taser shocks against individuals that are unwarranted; and
use a higher level of force than justified for low-level offenses.
In a 42-page letter to the mayor, the federal officials found officers frequently escalate conflict, rush in to an encounter when they can hold back, and continue to use force even when the need for it has waned.
Portland police have used Taser stun guns without warning, fired multiple Taser stun gun cycles on a single person and failed to re-evaluate the stun gun’s use between cycles. Even when officers’ Taser use clearly violated existing bureau policy, the Taser deployments later “were approved by the chain of command,” the letter said.
“We found that PPB officers often do not adequately consider a person’s mental state before using force and that there is instead a pattern of responding inappropriately to persons in mental health crisis,” Perez’s letter said. “These practices engender fear and distrust in the Portland community, which ultimately impacts PPB’s ability to police effectively.”
The DOJ said that its expert found Portland officers seem to harbor greater fear of people with mental illness than do officers in other cities.
The federal agency found that the excessive force used by officers results from bureau “deficiencies in policy, training and supervision” that have existed for a long time. Supervisors have failed to hold officers accountable for excessive force, and the city’s process for reviewing police use of force complaints takes too long, is “byzantine” and “self-defeating,” the review found.
The city of Portland has paid out about $6 million in the last 20 years to settle lawsuits related to alleged police misconduct.
“While they have not created the problem” Perez said of the current police administration, “they own the problem.”
Justice officials recommended that Portland police immediately stop using the term “mentals,” which the investigators heard used in a police roll call presentation.
In a footnote, the Justice Department cited as callous the Portland police training division’s use of former Officer Chris Humphreys‘ controversial use of a beanbag shotgun against an unarmed 12-year-old girl as an “exemplary” model of how a less-lethal weapon is used. The federal justice officials informed bureau managers, and Reese then forbade the incident from being used in training.
The proposed settlement between the police and federal justice department calls for an array of changes in bureau policies and practices.
The bureau would revise its use of force policies so officers have “necessary guidance” when encountering someone with mental illness. Taser use would be restricted and officers would be directed to focus on de-escalating encounters. The bureau would expand its single Mobile Crisis Unit team, which pairs an officer with a Project Respond mental health expert, to provide 24-hour, 7-day-a-week coverage. A Mental Health Triage Desk would be created at the dispatch center so that mental health-related calls are properly routed to the appropriate agency.
Under the agreement, the city would also work with community mental health providers to try to open a 24-hour secure center where police could drop off people suffering with mental illness, which would give officers more options. Clients could also walk into the center.
Justice officials also urged the bureau to bring back scenario-based role-playing in its crisis intervention training. The report advocates training officers to go “hands on” to make an arrest after an initial use of less-lethal force, and called for the bureau to find a way to interview officers involved in shootings immediately afterward.
Derald Walker, Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare’s chief executive officer, said many of the recommendations will take added resources. “Like so many thing, it’s all about the money,” Walker said. “It’s going to require a huge amount of political and public will to see that happen.”
Officer Daryl Turner, Portland Police Association president, said he disagreed with the federal agency’s conclusions. He called on the city to hire more officers to meet the requested reforms.
“As Chief Reese has said, the officers ‘are not to blame,’ ” Turner said, in a statement. “Nevertheless, we all can take comfort in at least two things – the USDOJ did not find a pattern and practice of unreasonable force against any particular race, nor did the USDOJ find a pattern and practice of unreasonable deadly force.”
Perez, at Thursday’s news conference, said there were obvious “tensions that exist between the Portland Police Bureau and communities of color.” Perez said he hoped a new community group set up to monitor the proposed bureau reforms will also work to address this problem, as well.
He urged the bureau to conduct a bureau-wide “intensive cultural sensitivity and competency training.”
“All citizens – especially our most vulnerable – must be able to trust the police,” Perez said.
Mental health in Oregon: State has more work to do
At the podium, Amanda Marshall, U.S. attorney for Oregon. Behind her (L to R): Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez; Portland Police Chief Mike Reese; Portland Mayor Sam Adams.
Six years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into Oregon’s mental health system. A lot has happened since then but advocates say a person in the throes of a mental health crisis may actually be worse off today.
That was crystal clear Thursday when the federal Justice Department released an investigation into the Portland Police Bureau that concluded the “absence of a comprehensive community mental health infrastructure” means police are shouldering the burden of being the first to respond to people in crisis. That, despite the fact that Oregon has a new, state-of-the-art mental hospital.
The Justice report, released Thursday, quotes one “high level” Portland Police officer who said he used to encounter people suffering mental health issues “a couple of times a month.” Now it’s “a couple of times a day.”
Everyone seems to agree that the Portland Police report focuses on fixing a short-term crisis but the state needs to continue to work toward long-term solutions.
There are a lot of people working to improve mental health care in Oregon, says Bob Joondeph, executive director for Disability Rights Oregon.
“But I would not say that we have a significant change in conditions on the ground,” he adds. “That may be even worse because there are fewer resources available now than there were a few years ago.”
Still, Joondeph and other advocates say they’re hopeful about national health care reforms, which broaden insurance coverage for more people, and about Oregon’s new coordinated care organizations, intended to focus on prevention and integrate physical and mental health care.
U.S. Justice Department officials are also waiting to see whether the health reforms will take care of their concerns.
In 2006, federal officials warned Oregon that conditions at the state mental hospital violated patients’ civil rights. The state built a $458.1 million hospital in Salem.
Then, in 2010, the Justice Department widened its inquiry, looking at whether Oregonians with mental illness were able to receive care in their communities rather than in a large hospital far from home.
Just as it appeared that federal officials were running out of patience with Oregon’s progress, Gov. John Kitzhaber persuaded them to give the state more time.
The Justice Department agreed.
“We want to be sure we get it right,” Thomas Perez, the department’s top civil rights lawyer said Thursday.
Dr. Bruce Goldberg, head of the Oregon Health Authority, said Oregon has added about 100 beds — community residential treatment or supported housing — in the past two years, Goldberg said.
“It’s good, but it’s not enough,” he acknowledged. “I think we need to do more … Part of the issue is we’ve been challenged as a state by our economic issues.”
Beckie Child, an advocate who has dealt personally with mental health issues, says she wants to see the state invest in housing and peer support for people in treatment.
“They’ve been talking at the 90,000-foot-level and not what it is like for folks on the ground,” she said.
The state is planning to build a new 174-bed hospital in Junction City, though patient advocates argue that it would be better to spend the money helping people get care in their communities.
“The Health Authority needs to talk about how it’s going to make an investment to keep people out of crisis,” said Chris Bouneff, executive director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Oregon.
Instead, Bouneff says, state officials are “fixated on a giant institution in Junction City.”
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, says the simple fact that Oregonians are talking more openly about mental health care is a sign of progress.
Several years ago, Courtney was taken into what he calls the “room of lost souls,” where thousands of corroding cans containing the ashes of former hospital patients had been stored and forgotten.
For him, that became a symbol of the state’s long-neglected mental health system.
“We’re moving in the right direction because the only direction we could move was up,” he said. “Are we going fast enough? No. Are we anywhere near where we should be? No.”
Portland officer apologizes for ‘knee-jerk’ message criticizing federal inquiry
Portland Police Officer John Hurlman was seated in his patrol car Thursday morning, listening to a local radio station’s coverage of a news conference at police headquarters. Federal justice department officials were about to unveil their findings after more than a yearlong review of Portland police use of force.
Hurlman sent a text message out to all officers on the patrol car’s mobile computer, alerting them to tune in.
Shortly after the U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall started to speak, another officer texted the news back to all: the U.S. Department of Justice had found that Portland police engage in a pattern and practice of excessive force against people suffering from mental illness.
Annoyed by the outcome, Hurlman said he typed back something like, “This is the same DOJ or people who created Waco and Ruby Ridge.”
The North Precinct officer was referring to two of the biggest federal law enforcement fiascoes in recent memory: the disastrous 1993 federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas. The other, the tragic 1992 encounter between the FBI and a band of white separatists at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
Hurlman said he thought he had just responded to one officer but soon learned his message had popped up on all patrol officers’ mobile computers.
“It was kind of a knee-jerk reaction,” said the 21-year Portland police veteran. “In the current political climate, it wasn’t appropriate. On second-thought, I probably shouldn’t have done it.”
Yet Hurlman doesn’t hide his anger with the Justice Department’s ruling regarding Portland police.
“I was really annoyed at that moment, and, in fact, I think it’s nonsense,” he said Friday of the federal review. “Quite frankly, we’re being judged by people who don’t have much law enforcement experience.”
Hurlman said he was one of the original Portland officers to volunteer for crisis intervention training, before it became mandatory for all officers.
“We all know the lengths we go to to try to defuse these situations peacefully,” he said. “Nobody wants to go out and harm someone who is mentally ill.”
North Precinct Cmdr. Mike Leloff soon learned of the patrolwide message and called Hurlman into his office for a stern talk. Hurlman said Leloff appropriately, “chewed him out.”
As a result, Hurlman later Thursday texted an apology to all on his patrol car’s mobile computer.
He said it read something like this: “To those who received my earlier message, my remarks were unprofessional and insensitive. I apologize to anyone who received it.”
Portland Lt. Robert King said Friday, “The issue was addressed immediately by the Command Staff and the matter has been dealt with appropriately.”
Hurlman was back on patrol Friday, responding to emergency calls at North Precinct. He said he was advised to be careful about what he says and remain respectful.
A day after the federal report was made public, Hurlman added Friday, “People here are frustrated, to put it mildly.”
Portland Police Chief Responds To Federal Investigation
Last week, the federal Department of Justice released the results of a long-running investigation into how Portland Police officers use force. It that found a pattern of excessive force, especially with people with mental illness.
Monday, on OPB’s Think Out Loud, Police Chief Mike Reese discussed the findings and the future of his bureau.
Host Dave Miller asked Reese what the ideal role would be for police to play with someone with mental illness.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice Thursday morning are expected to announce the federal agency’s findings from a more than 14-month-long investigation into Portland police use of force.
Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division
The federal agency opened a civil rights investigation June 28, 2011, to determine whether the Portland Police Bureau engages in a “pattern or practice’’ of excessive force, particularly against people with mental illness.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez came to Portland last June to announce the federal inquiry. He said then that the review was prompted by a significant increase in police shootings during the prior 18 months, the majority involving people with mental illness.
Perez is back in town Thursday, set to announce the findings with U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall, Mayor Sam Adams and Mike Reese, chief of police, at 10:30 a.m. at the Justice Center, located at 1111 Southwest 2nd Avenue, in Room 14B.
Lt. Robert King, a police spokesman, declined to comment on the nature of the morning’s announcement.
The police investigation was to overlap with an ongoing federal investigation into Oregon’s mental health care system, federal officials said.
Special litigation attorneys in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, have been evaluating bureau policies, procedures and practices, as well as specific officer-involved fatal shootings or deaths in custody.
In February, federal authorities held their first public forum in Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood to hear citizens’ accounts of their interactions with Portland police officers. And in August 2011, Justice Department officials held individual interviews with community groups.
If violations are identified, the federal agency will recommend remedies and may monitor the Police Bureau until it’s satisfied the bureau has addressed the problems.
Since the inquiry began, Chief Mike Reese has made some changes in response to federal recommendations. He began to require sergeants immediately initiate investigations into officers’ use of force and assigned a new inspector to analyze data on such incidents, a gap identified by the Justice Department during the course of the inquiry. Just last week, the Portland police released its own 4-page statistical report on police use of force, showing a 35 percent decline between 2008 and 2011.
Earlier this year, Reese defended his officers’ use of force. He cited increasing calls involving suicidal people and decried the faltering safety net for those with mental illness.
Portland joined a growing number of police agencies, including Seattle, Newark, N.J. and New Orleans, that have been targeted for federal review in the last few years, under a 1994 law passed by Congress after the brutal beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers.
In Seattle, the federal agency announced this summer that a court-appointed monitor was to ensure that Seattle Police revise its use of force policies, and enhance its training, reporting, investigations and supervision of police use of force. The Justice Department found that Seattle police engaged in a “pattern or practice of excessive force,’’ but did not find a practice of discriminatory policing.
The federal inquiry in Portland – the first comprehensive federal investigation into the city’s police bureau- followed a string of controversial Portland officer-involved fatal shootings or deaths in police custody of people suffering from mental illness.
In February 2010, city officials, including former police Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Mayor Sam Adams, had asked the U.S. Justice Department to conduct a full review of the Police Bureau after the Jan. 29, 2010 police fatal shooting of Campbell, an unarmed black man who was distraught following the death of his brother earlier that day.
Community leaders disturbed by the high-profile police shootings and deaths in custody also pressed for such an inquiry.
Among their concerns: the high profile September 2006 death in police custody of James P. Chasse Jr., a 42-year-old man who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia; the fatal shooting of a 58-year-old homeless man Jack Dale Collins who emerged from a restroom at Hoyt Arboretum with an X-Acto knife; and the shooting of homeless veteran Thomas Higginbotham, who was shot 10 times after he emerged from a Southeast Portland car wash with a knife.
The U.S. Department of Justice says it has reached agreement with Oregon officials on a yearslong strategy for reforming the state’s community mental-health system, correspondence obtained by the Statesman Journal shows.
Federal officials said in a recent letter to the state Department of Justice that the agreement paves the way for changes that will “improve the lives of thousands of Oregonians living with mental illness.”
S. Amanda Marshall
If envisioned reforms materialize, that will resolve an ongoing federal investigation of Oregon’s mental-health system, without legal action against the state, wrote Jonathan Smith, chief of the Special Litigation Section of the federal Justice Department, and S. Amanda Marshall, the U.S. Attorney for Oregon.
The newspaper obtained the March 13 federal letter, and a March 23 state response letter, through Oregon’s public records law. The documents were released by the state Department of Justice.
As outlined in the federal letter, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, along with mental-health experts hired by the agency, will work cooperatively with the state to identify and plug gaps in the community-based system. Federal involvement in Oregon mental-health reforms could last for several years, the letter says.
“We are hopeful that our work together will address the gaps in, and improve the quality of, the community system for persons with mental illness during the coming years,” it says. “It is contemplated that this process will successfully resolve our investigation once an array of essential community services are in place and positive outcomes are being achieved on agreed-upon metrics.”
The community mental-health system provides services and support for tens of thousands of Oregonians, including housing, case management, crisis services, drop-in centers, job training, living skills training, peer support and more.
Mental-health advocates long have complained about inadequate state funding for community-based services. They have argued that the state spends too much money on mental hospitals, at the expense of the community system. Such concerns have fueled intense opposition to a state plan to build a new psychiatric hospital in Junction City.
The state spends more money in total on community mental-health programs than at the state hospital. The current two-year budget for community care is $434 million; for the state hospital it’s $339 million, although the hospital cares for about 600 patients compared to the thousands of patients in community programs.
Federal officials mentioned the funding controversy in their recent letter to the state.
“Throughout our investigation, we have met with a range of stakeholders, including consumers, advocates, providers and elected and public safety officials,” it says. “We have heard a consistent message that the state must invest more in critical community based services and that investments in institutions – including the proposed hospital at Junction City – are draining resources that should be used to keep people in their homes and in the communities.”
The feds vowed to “continue to meet with these stakeholders as the state implements its reform process to ensure that this agreed-upon process translates to real improvements in the lives of people with mental illness.”
The behind-the-scenes agreement between the federal Justice Department and the state comes nearly six years after federal investigators, in June 2006, launched an investigation into patient care and conditions at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem.
A scathing report issued by the federal agency in January 2008 detailed a multitude of flaws at Oregon’s main mental hospital. The report came as the state was gearing up to replace the outdated and unsafe institution with a new $280 million hospital. The new state hospital complex became fully operational this month.
Amid reform-minded changes at the Salem psychiatric hospital, the federal Justice Department notified Oregon officials in 2010 that it was widening the civil rights investigation to examine state-funded community mental-health programs and services.
Key to the expanded federal inquiry is whether the state is violating provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide mentally ill Oregonians with adequate community-based services.
Oregon’s push to overhaul health care, led by Gov. John Kitzhaber and Oregon Health Authority Director Bruce Goldberg, “provides a unique opportunity for the state and the Civil Rights Division to work together to address our concerns by embedding reform in the design of the health care system,” the federal letter says.
Under the agreement, specific reforms in the community mental health system will occur in stages during coming years, with desired outcomes spelled out in provider contracts, regulations and other documents, the letter says.
“Initially, the state has agreed to collect statewide system data on the services currently being provided and the people being served,” it says. “Working with the United States and our experts, this data will be transformed into outcome measures that will be included in plan documents, contracts and regulatory materials. We contemplate working cooperatively with the state for the next several years. In this unique context, we are optimistic that the iterative process to which we have agreed will improve the lives of thousands of Oregonians living with mental illness.”
In a March 23 response to the federal officials, Oregon lawyer John Dunbar, head of the Special Litigation Unit of the state Justice Department, expressed optimism about moving forward, along with some concerns.
“We agree that we have made tremendous progress,” he wrote. “We are appreciative of USDOJ’s outcome-driven approach, and we are glad to see you share our desire to avoid costly, wasteful litigation if possible.”
However, the state attorney also noted that he had “some substantive concerns” about the federal letter. For example, he said the document “appears to overstate the state’s commitments,” and he took issue with some of the reform metrics, or measurements, outlined by the feds.
“We should be able to straighten these issues out, but I wanted to make sure we were all on the same page so that misunderstandings don’t develop,” Dunbar wrote.
On Monday, two leaders of Oregon mental-health advocacy groups said they were encouraged by the accord on mental-health reforms.
“I think the overall message is that this is very encouraging and the timing is very good,” said Bob Joondeph, executive director of Disability Rights Oregon. “As in the spirit of health care reform, we’re hoping as advocates to have some input into this before it’s memorialized.
“It’s very much a breakthrough,” he added. “Interestingly enough, it’s a breakthrough that is very consistent with what Oregon is doing to reform its health care delivery system in the Medicaid world. So it may just be that the timing was right.”
Chris Bouneff, executive director of NAMI Oregon, a chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said: “It will take some time to digest the spreadsheets of measurements to draw a conclusion. At a rough first glance, the progress seems positive.”
Bouneff said he was put off, though, by Oregon’s objections to some of the reform measurements sought by the feds.
“One glaring omission on Oregon’s side is the state’s unwillingness to accept certain process measures that are widely credited with improving outcomes,” he said.
The Oregon state legislature has determined not to provide additional funding for the construction of a state mental hospital near Junction City. However, the state hospital administration has decided to use $20 million, which was left over from construction of the Salem campus of Oregon State Hospital, to further develop the project. The proposed construction will involve site construction and it will begin the construction of the building’s foundation.
I have been assured by State Senator Chris Edwards that, during the next legislative session, there will be a “clean” discussion of the relative merits of locked-ward hospital treatment vs. community-based programs, and this discussion will determine the future of the hospital project.
However, it’s very clear to me that the hospital administration is working to avoid that conversation and dialogue.
As Edwards knows, all stakeholders — patient advocates, professional organizations, the Oregon State Hospital Advisory Board and the federal government — strongly support community-based services.
At this juncture, the Junction City-area state-owned property could be used for a multitude of governmental functions. It could be developed as a campus for community-based residential programs for the mentally ill; it could be the site for the Veteran’s Administration clinic slated to be built in the greater Eugene area; it could be a service park for future state and federal government offices and service centers; it could be many different things. It has the proper zoning (public facilities); it has infrastructure in place to serve it; it’s in an excellent location, near major highways and the Eugene airport. In sum, it offers tremendous potential for South Valley governmental services siting.
However, once foundation work for the new state hospital building is begun, I predict hospital administration will simply say, “Look, we’ve gone too far to change course now. We can’t waste taxpayer dollars by deciding to change our minds. We must go forward with the hospital as planned.”
What we must do is simple: We must stop construction on the actual buildings. This may prevent the legislature from a final, absolute commitment to locked-ward hospital treatment as the direction the state wants to take for the future of treatment of the mentally ill.
I offer the following comments, hoping that our legislators will listen, and begin an open and inclusive dialogue to determine a better future.
And, I suggest that, when that dialogue occurs, those legislators will be convinced that state resources are best directed toward a cascade of community-based services, rather than focused on an extremely expensive commitment to hospital-based placement.
The decision to build or not to build a new $100 million mental hospital near Junction City will determine the focus of treatment for Oregon’s mentally ill population for years to come.
If the state decides to fund hospital construction, it will be committed to over $100 million in construction costs, and additional annual operating expenses of over $48 million (174 beds at $280,000 per bed per year).
This huge expenditure will drastically curtail funding for the development and operation of community-based services — community-based residential facilities, community mental health clinics, outpatient treatment and community-based crisis care. Funding the hospital’s construction and then its operation will put all our mental health care dollars in one basket — and in my opinion, it’s the wrong basket.
Every stakeholder group engaged in this debate has publicly and vehemently opposed the hospital’s construction: every patients’ advocacy group has opposed it; every mental health professional organization has opposed it; the governor-appointed Oregon State Hospital Advisory Board has opposed it and written a very strong letter of opposition to legislators. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spoke with its wallet in opposition to large, locked-ward facilities. Community-based treatment and services receive a 50 to 60 percent federal subsidy; locked-ward facilities such as the proposed Junction City hospital receive none. The Junction City proposal is both wrong-headed and hugely expensive.
The guiding principle of mental health care and treatment is “the least restrictive appropriate setting possible.” Locked-ward placement is the most restrictive placement on the continuum of services for the mentally ill. Funding the Junction City hospital will represent a commitment to continue that funding and that extreme level of treatment, at a direct “opportunity loss” cost to all other placement and treatment options. Oregon, especially in these difficult economic times, simply cannot fund this facility and develop and support other, less restrictive, treatment options.
Even the proponents of building the hospital acknowledge that we do, indeed, need to move toward community-based treatment programs and services, but they claim another locked-ward facility is a necessary step toward those programs. This argument is akin to suggesting the best way to drive from Eugene to Portland is to first travel to Medford. Rather than taking us closer to that goal of community-based mental health treatment, the hospital’s construction takes us much farther away from that goal.
Most of the debate centers on forensic patients, individuals who have committed crimes, but are adjudicated “not guilty” due to mental illness, and sent to the hospital rather than being processed further into the criminal justice/penal system.
Based on August 2011 data, 40 percent of Oregon’s forensic patients were committed for crimes which were not Measure 11 felonies. Had these individuals not been judged mentally ill and instead were convicted of such crimes, they would have been sentenced to either very short periods of incarceration or placed on probation.
Most of these patients could be treated in the community at a much lower cost (about 14 percent of the cost of hospital placement), receive more appropriate treatment, and more readily transition back into the community. Importantly, they would present no risk to other patients, staff or the community.
In addition to forensic patients, locked-ward mental hospitals across the country, including Oregon, have an increasing population of geropsychiatric (older) patients, many quite elderly and infirm, who could be placed in community-based facilities with absolutely no risk to anyone.
We’re both violating the mandate for “least restrictive setting” and wasting tens of millions of tax dollars with these locked-ward placements — or, if you will, “misplacements.”
The simplest and most economical approach to forensic patient care is to provide proactive support; care, treatment and supervision before they commit crimes leading to their hospital placement; i.e., help them avoid becoming forensic patients.
Most (virtually all) forensic patients have long histories of mental illness. They are individuals who when living in our communities received maintenance levels of psychotropic medications to treat, primarily, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They function quite well in the community so long as they maintain that therapeutic level of medication. However, nearly all psychotropic drugs have rather unpleasant side-effects: nausea, headaches, muscle and joint pain, stomach and digestive problems and, often, impotence and loss of libido. Problems arise when individuals taking these medications decide to “self-UNmedicate” — to, on their own, reduce or terminate their medications. Most of the incidents leading to forensic placement occur when such patients are “off their meds” and in the throes of a psychotic episode.
We need community resources to help these individuals continue their medication at an appropriate level. We need outpatient support groups and individual therapy and counseling support. We need outpatient clinics with physicians and psychiatrists to help adjust medications and doses to minimize side effects. We need, when appropriate, nurse practitioners to supervise court-ordered medication dosing. We need community-based residential facilities with a continuum of security levels to house patients. We need community crisis centers for temporary secure placement to provide short-term detention, observation and evaluation and, when needed, to facilitate the re-establishment of therapeutic levels of medication.
We need the legislature to address this important topic with open minds, and to listen to the strong arguments for these community-based services which patient advocates, professionals in the field, and the Oregon State Hospital Advisory Board have put forward, to terminate the Junction City hospital project, and redirect funding toward proactive community-based programs and facilities.
The state hospital administration is working very hard to avoid the discussion we need, by forging on with construction of the hospital without the genuine, informed support and approval of the legislature.
Gary Crum is a resident of Junction City, Oregon. He has been active in opposing the construction of a new psychiatric institution there.
A years-long push to replace the crumbling Oregon State Hospital with a world-class psychiatric facility is nearing the finish line.
The third and final mass move of patients into the newly completed $280 million, 620-bed hospital complex is scheduled for March 13-15.
The new facility replaces a notoriously run-down and antiquated array of hospital buildings on the OSH campus, all deemed obsolete and unsafe by state-hired consultants in 2005.
The Oregon State Hospital is having an open house today so that the public can view the new facility. The Kirkbride building with a restored cupola will open as a museum in the fall of 2012. (Diane Stevenson / Statesman Journal)
“It wasn’t kind of an embarrassment, it was a total embarrassment. Not only was it an embarrassment, it was a disgrace,” Peter Courtney, president of the Oregon Senate, said Thursday about the old institution.
He cautioned, however, that hospital reforms can’t stop with the development of a “world class” facility.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to say until years have passed that not only did we do it right brick-and-mortar wise but we did it right in terms of the amount of staffing as well as the quality of the treatment people get,” Courtney said.
About 180 patients are preparing to relocate to the new hospital around mid-March, bringing it to full occupancy.
Thomas Berry, a 29-year-old patient, will be glad to exit Ward 50C, located in a dreary 1950s-era building that will soon be closed.
The Baby Hercules statue was recently restored and is now in the front of the historic Kirkbride building. The Oregon State Hospital is having an open house Friday so the public can view the new facility. The facility is slated to become fully operational in March. Thursday, March 1, 2012. (DIANE STEVENSON | Statesman Journal)
“Everything is falling apart here. Over there, everything is new,” Berry said by telephone from Ward 50C.
Patient Renee Putnam, 31, now resides in a section of the new hospital called Trails.
Her current living conditions are far superior to the “nasty” old hospital, Putnam said.
“I think it’s much better than the old hospital, as far as aesthetics,” she said.
But Putnam said she is weary of her repetitive treatment program, and she hopes to leave the hospital soon.
“I’ve taken every class there is multiple times, and I’m just burned out,” she said.
Psychologist Daniel Smith, who has worked at the hospital for eight years, said patient care is steadily improving as administrators, therapists and rank-and-file staff members embrace a recovery model that tailors treatment to each patient’s needs.
“It has improved all around,” he said. “Part of that is definitely the new facilities, but we are certainly continuing to improve our patient care.”
Completion of the 870,000-square-foot hospital in Salem caps the first leg of a two-hospital construction package approved by state legislators.
The Oregon State Hospital is having an open house Friday so the public can view the new facility. The new facility is slated to become fully operational in March. Thursday, March 1, 2012. (DIANE STEVENSON | Statesman Journal)
Plans call for the second hospital to be built on state prison land in Junction City.
Combined costs for the two new hospitals are budgeted at $458 million.
The state hospital has operated in Salem since 1883, when it opened as the Oregon State Insane Asylum. At that time, it was on the outskirts of town. The facility was designed by Wilbur Boothby. He also built the Asahel Bush House and other Salem landmarks.
At its peak, the hospital’s population swelled to more than 3,000 people in 1950s. The hospital now houses fewer than 600 patients.
Until construction of the new facility, no new buildings had been erected on the hospital campus since the mid-20th century.
Dozens of hospital structures were razed to clear the way for the new facility, located south of Center Street NE on the tree-lined campus.
The Oregon State Hospital is having an open house Friday so the public can view the new facility. The hospital now has a shop so that patients can browse around and buy clothing. The new facility is slated to become fully operational in March. Thursday, March 1, 2012. (DIANE STEVENSON | Statesman Journal)
Most notably, work crews demolished portions of the hospital’s J Building, used in the filming of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in the 1970s.
In recent decades, the building’s peeling facade and rotting interior became stark symbols of systematic neglect of Oregon’s main mental hospital.
Heeding the wishes of J Building preservationists, state planners agreed to spare the oldest and most historically significant sections, plus its distinctive tower.
Remodeled portions of the J Building were incorporated into the new hospital complex.
In another nod to history buffs, a long-mothballed fountain, dubbed “Baby Hercules,” was hauled out of storage, spruced up and recently returned to its prominent position near the hospital’s entrance.
More than 40 OSH patients contributed to helping create a bronze sculpture that hangs in the Kirkbride building which will be the home of a new museum that will open in the fall of 2012. The Oregon State Hospital is having an open house on Friday. The new facility is slated to become fully operational in March. Thursday, March 1, 2012. (DIANE STEVENSON | Statesman Journal)
The first section of the new hospital, called “Harbors,” opened in January 2011.
The second phase of the project, “Trails,” opened in August.
The final phase of the project calls for 180 patients to move into two treatment programs: “Bridges,” a transition program for patients preparing to leave the hospital, and “Springs,” which treats civilly committed patients receiving care for dementia, brain injury or mental illness.
As the new hospital kicks into high gear on about 100 acres of hospital property south of Center Street, plans call for the state Department of Administrative Services to take over “the management and disposition” of unused hospital buildings and property on the north side of the street.
The north-campus property consists of 47 acres. Six major buildings are situated on the parcel. The entire area is part of the Oregon State Hospital national historic district.
It remains to be determined whether the state will hold onto the property or sell it for redevelopment.
DAS officials have started to meet with Salem neighborhood associations to discuss the planning process for the future of the north campus property.
There will be no new bond funding this year for the proposed state psychiatric hospital in Junction City, according to Gov. John Kitzhaber and several key lawmakers.
But that doesn’t mean the project is stalled. State officials now acknowledge they in fact have $20 million in old funding still available and dedicated to the project. That will allow on-site infrastructure and foundation work at the Highway 99 property to proceed this year and early next year.
The pace of construction won’t be as brisk as advocates have wanted. Allocation of new bond funding this legislative session would have allowed construction to proceed more quickly, officials said.
Although the state’s capital construction budget hasn’t yet been finalized, the advocates’ request for $29 million in new general, fund-backed bonds to further the project is off the negotiating table, state officials said.
Opposition this session centered largely on fiscal concerns. The state’s Debt Advisory Committee has recommended that the Legislature take on no additional general fund-backed debt this year — although long-standing philosophical questions remain about whether Oregon should commit to another large psychiatric hospital.
But supporters of the Junction City project, including Kitzhaber, say there’s $20 million in unspent bond funds that were allocated to the project back in 2009 that can be used to keep the work going.
With that money, project managers have said they can complete planning, site preparation and foundation work this year and in the first half of 2013.
Although that will mean a slowdown in the anticipated construction schedule, it won’t prevent the hospital from being completed before its target opening of early 2015, said Tim Raphael, a spokesman for the governor.
The decision on new bonding to complete the construction can therefore be pushed to 2013, Kitzhaber said.
“We knew 2012 would be a difficult year for new bonding, so we asked project managers what they could do within the existing allocation,” Raphael said Friday.
While project backers in recent weeks were pushing the Legislature for new bond money, none had mentioned publicly that the project still had $20 million in prior funding available.
The immediate fate of the big project — and the construction and permanent jobs it would generate — has been portrayed by state officials for some months as riding on the ability of project supporters to get more bonding approval through the current Legislature.
Linda Hammond, director of Oregon’s addictions and mental health treatment programs, had told The Register-Guard previously that delaying the new bonds by at least a year, into 2013, “would make it extremely difficult to meet the target date of 2015.”
Project administrator Jodie Jones would not comment on the project Friday, referring all questions to the governor’s office.
With the effort to gain additional bonding for the project from the Legislature now clearly dead, officials are disclosing they still have the old money available.
The state already has spent more than $30 million on the Junction City project, to complete work such as water and sewer lines around the proposed site and on hospital design and planning.
Hospital advocates hope they will gain more traction in the 2013 Legislature, when the state’s bonding capacity is expected to be rosier.
Another $84 million is needed to complete the project.
The debt committee estimates that as much as $987 million in general fund-backed capacity could be available in just the first year of the 2013-15 biennium.
Legislative leaders “are being very conservative with capital construction projects this cycle,” said state Sen. Chris Edwards, D-Eugene.
“There will still be opponents on philosophical grounds next year, but they won’t be able to hide behind the state’s fiscal difficulties,” he said. “The bottom line is that we still need the hospital.”
State Rep. Val Hoyle, D-Eugene, said she was happy that the people working the project had been able to “keep the project moving with existing funds.”
“I believe holding off on additional funding until we have more (bonding) capacity is responsible,” she said.
Conversely, state Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, the state GOP’s chief budget crafter, said he will continue to oppose the project, which he doesn’t believe to be a cost-effective or humane way of treating people with mental illnesses.
“If the Democrats take back the House (in the 2012 elections), and continue to control the Senate and the governor’s office, the project might move forward,” he said. “But it won’t be based on economic reasons.”
Edwards said he understood that some Junction City residents may be increasingly skeptical about the state delivering on its promise of a hospital in their city. Residents long have hoped that a major state facility could provide an economic boost to the area.
“If I lived in Junction City, it would be easy for me to say, ‘This is typical of the state not to follow through on its assurances,’ ” Edwards said.
“But … those of us in the Legislature that support (the hospital) will continue to fight for it.”