Mental Health Association of Portland

Oregon's independent and impartial mental health advocate

Iowa man finds long-lost relative’s ashes in Oregon’s Library of Dust

Posted by Jenny on 7th April 2014, April 4, 2014

Cremains were stored in canisters.

Cremains were stored in canisters.

It’s a family reunion that almost wasn’t. An Iowa City man recently brought home the ashes of a long lost relative that spent decades in a storage room on the other side of the country.

About a month and a half ago Bobby Jett was emailed by a woman who had looked at his profile on She said she was trying to unite people with long forgotten ancestors across the country, and knew the location of Henry Wagner, a distant relative of Jett’s.

“He’s actually the husband of my aunt, of his great grand-uncle,” said Jett.

The woman said Wagner’s cremains were in something called the “Library of Dust”, a storage room at the Oregon State Hospital which held the ashes of approximately 3,600 people. Many were former patients of the mental hospital who died between 1914 and the ’70s.

Wagner was one of them. When he passed in 1938 no one claimed his body. Per hospital policy, Wagner’s body was cremated, sealed inside a copper canister and shelved.

“Mental illness in that time was something everyone wanted to distance themselves from. They did not want to talk about it. If a family had it, they were often times just written out of their history,” said Jett.

That’s no longer the case for Wagner. Jett agreed to take possession of the ashes, and placed them at the Oxford Cemetery next to the grave of Wagner’s parents.

“I feel so at peace,” said Jett.

The “Library of Dust” was discovered in 2004. Since then it has been moved to a better facility, which still holds about 3,500 unclaimed remains. You can check the database of names here:

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Interview with Diane Goeres-Gardner focuses on Oregon State Hospital [AUDIO]

Posted by Jenny on 24th March 2014

KBOO, March 24, 2014

Jan Haaken talks with Oregon author and historian, Diane Goeres-Gardner about her new book “Inside the Oregon State Hospital: a history of tragedy and triumph”.

Book cover 'Inside the Oregon State Hospital_ a history of tragedy and triumph'

They delve into the ideas and motivations behind the book, some of the cases of hospitalized people she looks at, and changing views toward treating mental illness in Oregon over the generations. They consider women and madness, how different powerful actors resolve the ambivalences around whether the Oregon State Hospital is indeed a hospital or prison, and briefly and finally the eugenics movement in State hospitals.


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Oregon: History of Mental Health Care

Posted by admin2 on 14th March 2014

Learn about Oregon’s history of mental health care treatment dating back to the 1800s at the Oregon State Hospital’s Museum of Mental Health. See artifacts from the institution including a lobotomy table, restraints, and other early treatments. Hear what sent patients to the hospital, its historical significance and stories of patients who spent their lives in the facility. In 1975, the movie One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest was filmed at this hospital.


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Many at Fairness Hearing said settlement agreement doesn’t go far enough

Posted by Jenny on 20th February 2014

James Chasse sign

A banner from a 2010 protest.

KATU News, Feb. 18, 2014

For hours on Tuesday, dozens of people took to the courtroom of Federal Judge Michael Simon to give their opinion on whether a proposed settlement between the Portland Police Bureau and the United States Department of Justice is “fair, reasonable and adequate.”

The Justice Department had determined that Portland police engaged in a pattern of practice of using excessive force against people either with mental illness or perceived to have mental illness.

The settlement, which came after months of negotiations, includes policy changes – particularly when it comes to use of a Taser – as well changes to training and oversight.

Many of those who spoke were against the settlement, saying it didn’t go far enough.

The state chair of the NAACP said the investigation that led to the settlement didn’t go far enough because it didn’t address whether Portland Police engaged in racial discrimination; Mark Chasse, whose brother James died in police custody, asked that a court-appointed monitor be put in place; Reverend Allen Bethel of the Albina Ministerial Alliance said the agreement should have also ended police practice of allowing officers involved in a shooting to wait 48 hours before being questioned.

A deputy city attorney said while the city doesn’t agree with all of the Justice Department’s conclusions, they believe change is appropriate and have already instituted many of the suggested reforms and a representative of the Justice Department warned that if the agreement is not accepted, there’s no guarantee that there ever will be one.

While the investigation and proposed settlement focuses on the interactions between Portland Police and the mentally ill, there is evidence that this is one small part of a much larger problem.

According to a Justice Department report last month, in 2006 they started investigating conditions at Oregon State Hospital and four years later expanded the probe to look at the state’s mental health system with an eye toward “examining the community services and supports available to persons with mental illness throughout Oregon.”

The report found Oregon had made “limited progress” when it came to decreasing the use of restrictive institutional settings; that there is a lack of “adequate high-intensity services” and critical supports for housing and employment and that while there is a “high quantity” of services around the state, they do not meet the “evidence based models for quality.”

The emphasis in that paragraph is from the Justice Department.

After the report was issued, Justice Department officials met with representatives of the state who informed them of some steps they planned to take.

“Many of these proposals the Department heard about for the first time in” that meeting, a Justice Department investigator wrote afterward.

The official referred to them as “a long overdue first step in addressing the gaps in Oregon’s community-based system that the Department and the state now agree exist.”

One of those proposals became a little more concrete last week when it was announced that the state had given a $500,000 grant to an organization to set up Multnomah County’s first dedicated team of professionals for helping people with mental illness who come in frequent contact with the police.

What remains to be seen is how long the program will last. Whether it continues beyond one year will be determined by how well the program does.

Which brings up back to Tuesday’s hearing in Federal Court.

The issue before Judge Michael Simon is whether or not to accept the settlement.

There are a lot of people who question whether it could have gone further. Many even urged Judge Simon to make changes to the settlement, something he says he does not have the power to do.

While the settlement is supported by the City Council and the police union, among others, even the city concedes it’s not perfect.

But, city officials say, it is an important step and they are making progress.

The city has even created a new tax on land-line phones that will raise approximately $5 million each year to help pay for the reforms.

The hearing continues Wednesday but it’s expected there won’t be any decision from Judge Simon until at least mid-March.If he decides to reject the settlement, it means the Justice Department may proceed with a lawsuit against the Police Bureau to force changes.

When it comes to dealing with the mentally ill, progress has been made.

Whether it has been enough remains to be seen.

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Blue Mountain Recovery Center in Pendleton set to close March 31

Posted by Jenny on 19th February 2014

Blue Mountain Recovery Center

Blue Mountain Recovery Center

The State, Feb. 17, 2014

Inside the palatial Blue Mountain Recovery Center, only three clients remain on a second-floor ward. Other wards are dim and abandoned.

The Pendleton mental health hospital will officially shut down on March 31 after decades of scrutiny by the Oregon Legislature and dozens of 11th-hour saves. More than half of the 117 employees have already left to take other jobs.

The hospital is a curious blend of activity and long empty hallways, offices and treatment rooms. Even though the client population is dwindling, therapists, kitchen workers and office staff continue to do their jobs to support those who remain.

A foray into some of the empty wings is a journey back in time. One can almost hear echoes of past patients as they faced their demons.

In a closed men’s wing, mattresses and bedframes sit stacked neatly in the wide hallway. A television room contains a flat screen and a couple of leather chairs. A medication cart sits idle.

Downstairs are several old hydrotherapy rooms. Patients once soaked in cold water there in an attempt to cool them down and rid them of problem behaviors. When the practice went out of favor, the rooms were repurposed into seclusion/restraint rooms and, later, offices.

Five pianos scattered around the facility once got use, as did a tiny courtroom on the second floor, complete with flag and judge’s bench.

The hulking facility is an inefficient, deteriorating budget-buster, say its detractors.

The 101-year-old mental hospital sits by the railroad tracks next door to the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution. In the early days, patients often came by train to live out their days at the facility, which housed more than 500 people in its heyday. Mental illness was a hazy concept in the early 1900s and knowledge of brain chemistry was in its infancy. The term “schizophrenic” had just been coined. Conditions such as adolescence, occult study, senility, epilepsy, moonshine drinking and syphilis were among reasons to commit someone to state care.

The hospital’s name morphed over the decades, starting out as Eastern Oregon State Hospital and renamed to Eastern Oregon Psychiatric Center and finally Blue Mountain Recovery Center. Mission and treatment methods changed, too.

Instead of warehousing people, the hospital became a place of recovery. Clients, struggling with such disorders as schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder, were stabilized, treated and sent back to their lives.

BMRC Superintendent Kerry Kelly came to the then 60-bed hospital about 14 years ago as a nurse. She seems resigned to the closure. Filled boxes sit stacked on the floor in her sunlit office. Kelly doesn’t expect an 11th-hour save this time, though a local group has one plan in the works. Kelly has already secured a nurse manager job at the civil unit of the Oregon State Hospital in Salem.

She is philosophical about the mental hospital’s fight to exist over the past couple of decades.

“The first year I was here, we faced closure — I think there was just one biennium since (then) that we didn’t,” Kelly said. “We just soldiered on, put our heads down and did our work. We had a job to do.”

Recruiting for physicians, nurse practitioners and other staff was a sort of a Catch-22. Recruiting was difficult, Kelly said, because of the persistent threat of closure. Yet, Kelly said, some lawmakers cited difficulty to recruit as one of the reasons for closure.

The BMRC staff has shrunk in the past several months.

“They’ve gone on to many different programs,” Kelly said.

Some transferred to the Oregon State Hospital, Kelly said, and several others are now working for different state agencies. Some employees transferred to the Oregon State Hospital will ultimately end up in Junction City where an $80 million state psychiatric hospital is under construction. The facility is slated to open in 2015.

A couple of nurses took out-of-state jobs. Some accepted jobs across Westgate at one of three five-bed facilities that opened recently at the old Eastern Oregon Training Center campus. Ten people are retiring.

“Some are actively looking,” Kelly said. “Another group is looking on this as an opportunity to go back to school.”

Kelly will bid them all good-bye.

“I’ll be here until the end,” she said.

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Fate of legislation to make hospital assaults felonies still uncertain

Posted by Jenny on 13th February 2014

Oregon State Hospital

Oregon State Hospital

Statesman Journal, Feb. 12, 2014

A bill that would reclassify assaults against Oregon State Hospital employees as felonies rather than misdemeanors appeared to fail in the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

However, a last-minute motion from Rep. Brent Barton, D-Oregon City, brought it back for reconsideration in the committee’s next meeting today. The vote taken Tuesday could be reversed then.

READ – our open letter on OSH assaults

A deciding factor in the committee’s decision not to send the bill to the House floor seemed to be a letter submitted by Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau, whose office the Oregon Legislature gave almost $200,000 last year to prosecute crimes at the hospital and Oregon State Penitentiary.

He said it was unlikely more crimes at the hospital would be prosecuted even if House Bill 4036 were to pass, and he said he was reluctant to support changes to sentencing laws after agreeing to a deal struck last year.

“I don’t often get angry in this building, but I’m angry now,” Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie, said after reading the letter. “He can prosecute (these crimes) now, but somehow he’s choosing not to do it.”

Staff testified Monday that fewer than five of these crimes are prosecuted annually, in spite of an Oregon State Police detective being dedicated to investigating these crimes.

Beglau said this bill was unlikely to change how he handles these crimes.

“I remain confident that the numbers of prosecutions will remain relatively low, for purposes of fiscal impact,” he wrote. “I believe the best way to inform the committee of the realistic dynamics of violence in the OSH would be careful consultation with the stakeholders.”

He also said he was reluctant to support the bill after the deal that was struck over corrections reform in 2013. The law enforcement community and the legislature mutually agreed not to push for less or more sentencing reform than was contained in HB 3194, and he said he would feel uncomfortable supporting a bill that is essentially further reform to sentencing law.

This bill was aimed at prosecuting a small group of perpetually violent patients in the hospital, who staff said intentionally hurt employees and other patients. Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, said Monday making these crimes felonies rather than misdemeanors would be a deterrent to patients and an incentive to prosecute the crimes. He said it’s an ongoing problem that has been addressed in several ways but has never been fixed.

The committee members did not appear to disagree. Rather, they seemed to think Beglau’s approach would render the law useless.

After bill was spiked, Barton, in spite of his vote against sending the bill, called for a reconsideration today, which was approved. The bill will be up for further discussion and likely another vote during the committee’s regular meeting on that day.

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Our Open Letter on Assaults at the Oregon State Hospital

Posted by admin2 on 11th February 2014

OSH fenceFeb. 11, 2014

To: Greg Roberts, Superintendent, Oregon State Hospital

From: Mental Health Association of Portland

The Mental Health Association of Portland is Oregon’s impartial advocate for people with mental illness and addictions. We have a continuing interest in various aspects of the Oregon State Hospital.

We would like to offer our perspective on the issue of assaults at the hospital, which are currently being entirely mischaracterized by the media.

First, complaints of violence at the state hospital are nothing groundbreaking. We have heard this before — repeatedly. The issue comes to the attention of the media cyclically, and has for many years, originating from union representatives. We suspect this is true for every comparable institution across the country.

Second, it is important to recognize that disability rights advocates, such as Disability Rights Oregon, do not represent the unified and complete voice of persons with a diagnosis of mental illness. No one does — and the leadership of Disability Rights Oregon would be the first to say so.

Third, after listening to hundreds of current and former patients of the hospital, we submit that patients should only be held accountable for their violent actions if staff is held equally accountable for their own. Furthermore, if Oregon State Hospital is keeping count of assaults on staff by patients, it is incumbent upon them also to track assaults on patients by staff, and produce both sets of data equally, without preference, across the board — online, in published materials, in public gatherings, to the media, and in presentations to professional and direct care staff.

Finally, if Oregon State Hospital calls Salem police to investigate assaults on staff by patients, you must assure the community you and your colleagues will make an equal and impartial effort to bring police into the hospital to investigate assaults on patients by staff.

We have seen the photographs online of staff members who have been assaulted by patients — they’re terrible. No violence can be justified.

But mental illness is real, and symptoms of illness, such as uncontrollable moods and thoughts and feelings, are real. Equally real are laws and policies which protect the rights of patients to refuse treatment. Unwanted medical treatment is a form of assault, and coercion or threats of unwanted medical treatment are attempted assaults — and not just when medication, seclusion or restraints are employed, in all instances.

Everyone at the hospital — both patients and staff — must be given respect and safety, so patients can get better and staff can do their jobs. Managing these conflicting issues is your task.

We have seen recent statistics from the Oregon State Hospital, and we’ve heard that patient-on-staff assaults have been radically reduced by the renovated buildings, new staff and training, new management, and perhaps by other changes only perceptible inside the walls. So we’re encouraged, and believe a non-violent state hospital is a worthy and attainable goal.

But without equality of investigation and prosecution of both patients and staff members, any attempts to amend the problem will only serve to criminalize mental illness yet again, leave the hospital a dangerous place to live and work, make a circus of the important work of treatment and recovery, and, incidentally, guarantee lifetime employment for psychiatric jailers.

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OSH staffers want assaultive patients sent to prison

Posted by Jenny on 11th February 2014

The Harbors section of Oregon State Hospital

The Harbors section of Oregon State Hospital

The Oregonian, Feb. 10, 2014

Emily Mallorie was assaulted at work Feb. 3 and suffered a dislocated jaw, concussion and split lip that landed her in the emergency room.

She hopes to return to work Tuesday at the Oregon State Hospital, where she works as a mental health therapy technician. Her alleged attacker, a patient, faces minimal consequences, she says.

Oregon State Hospital assaults

Time period

No. of assaults

Medical costs

Lost work days

Jan.-June 2012 56 $117,000 96
Jan.-June 2013 65 $131,000 245
July-Dec. 2013 29 $31,800 13


“He made a choice to hit me in the face, with a closed fist, lunged forward and hit me as hard as he could,” Mallorie said. “I had blood gushing everywhere.”

On Monday, she testified before the House Judiciary Committee in support of House Bill 4036, which which would make “intentionally or knowingly” assaulting a state hospital employee a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Amendments in the works would include patient-on-patient assaults. The bill is scheduled for a work session Tuesday, when it could be moved to the floor….Continue reading at

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