Mental Health Association of Portland

Juliet Follansbee tells audience at MHAP event about trends, changes at Psychiatric Security Review Board

Posted by Jenny on 1st May 2014

The Lund Report, May 1, 2014

PSRB-logoFewer people than ever before are under the jurisdiction of the Psychiatric Security Review Board, according to executive director Juliet Follansbee who spoke at the annual Mental Health Association of Portland event and gave an overview on trends and changes within the agency.

“We’ve been interested in how the mental health system is migrating, or collapsing, into the criminal justice system,” said the group’s cofounder Jason Renaud.

The 10-person board is appointed by the governor, has the authority to commit people to the Oregon State Hospital, conditionally release them to community-based programs or discharge them from jurisdiction, said Dr. Joseph Bloom, a professor in OHSU’s Community Psychiatry Training Program and nationally recognized an expert on the insanity defense.

“Oregon has always been our laboratory. Until recently, I’ve always felt we had good laws but not enough services,” Bloom said. Now, there are more community mental health services available.

“This has got to be the most diverse audience I’ve ever had to present to,” said Follansbee, an attorney who was executive director of the 10-person board for about a year after former director Mary Claire Buckley was placed on administrative leave before resigning.

The board typically gets involved shortly after an arrest is made for people with a mental health diagnosis, and the insanity defense cannot be forced on a client. But if the client chooses that route, usually there’s not a trial and the person may be hospitalized or placed under conditional release.

In the past 10 years, the board’s witnessed a steady decline in the number of new clients.

“I like to think [people with mental illnesses] are getting services they need,” Follansbee said, before their problems escalate to the point where the criminal justice system becomes involved.

Currently there are 559 clients under the board’s jurisdiction, with 163 in the Oregon State Hospital and 385 on community release. The majority (84.3 percent) are men, most (81.9 percent) are white and the average age is 45.9 years.

The board also oversees 20 juvenile clients – 12 are in the hospital, while eight live in the community. There’s only one young woman in the program, and a large percentage have developmental disabilities with no other mental health diagnosis. Just under half are under the board’s jurisdiction because of sex offenses.

“In general, the diagnostic picture is much more complicated for the juvenile clients,” Follansbee said.

If a client is placed on conditional release, they must undergo some form of mental health treatment (often including medication) and may be required to undergo alcohol or drug treatment.

Clients must also do at least 20 hours of “structured activity” – paid work, attending school, volunteering or other activities such as library visits. Drinking alcohol and driving are both prohibited once people are released.

Follansbee also touched briefly on recent legislative changes that impacted the board’s work. Clients cannot own firearms unless approved by the board, sex offenders are ranked by offense and the criteria for civil commitments has become more narrow.

“The board does what we’re advised to do. We’re technical advisers,” Follansbee said.

In response to questions, Follansbee said most case managers work with about 12 clients – and she declined to discuss a question on an index card asking about an incident in Columbia County under investigation.

“Our concern is public safety for everyone, and that our clients are safe and everyone who works with our clients is safe,” Follansbee said.

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Family of mental health worker killed on patient visit files $2.5 million wrongful death suit

Posted by Jenny on 1st May 2014

The family of Jennifer Warren, who was killed in May 2012 in St. Helens while delivering medication to a patient, filed a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday against multiple corrections offices and health agencies. 

Warren, a health support worker for Columbia Community Mental Health, was stabbed to death in May 2012 at the St. Helens home of Brent Redd.

Redd previously was committed to the state hospital in 2007 after trying to strangle his mother. He was released in 2010 by the Psychiatric Security Review Board and placed by Wasco County Circuit Court in a residential facility in St. Helens… Continue reading on

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Juliet Follansbee points to progress at PSRB, with more than ever living in community, but others sound cautious note

Posted by Jenny on 12th April 2014

Street Roots, April 12, 2014

oregon-state-hospital04On the desk in Juliet Follansbee’s downtown Portland office is a thick book of Oregon laws. It contains only a few sentences that grant the state agency she operates tremendous power over the lives of hundreds of Oregonians.

In May, Follansbee was made interim executive director of the Psychiatric Security Review Board, a position she was permanently appointed to in November. Created by Oregon lawmakers in 1977, the 10-member interdisciplinary board has authority over individuals who have successfully asserted the “guilty except for insanity” defense, meaning they’ve committed a crime, but because of a mental illness or developmental disability did not fully understand what they were doing at the time.

Follansbee takes the reins of the PSRB at a time when the state has aspired to shift its mental health system to more community-based rather than institutional settings. Follansbee says that the PSRB has more resources to place people in community settings than ever before. Mental health advocates are also hoping that Follansbee will set a new tone for the PSRB, which some say was marked by a climate of fear and intimidation fostered by her predecessor.

Follansbee says she’s open to changing the PSRB’s processes and operations. She also wants to help standardize training and foster a collaborative approach with community health care providers. She says she wants the PSRB to accommodate change, the biggest of which is the increase in resources to treat clients in community settings.

“We (serve) just a small portion of the people who receive community mental health services,” says Follansbee.

Being placed under the PSRB, says Follansbee, who previously ran a program that restored the gun rights of Oregonians whose mental health had prevented them from owning firearms, is different from a civil commitment, where someone is involuntarily placed in a mental health setting. “This is something that our clients have chosen to do because they thought that they would do better in a mental health setting,” she says.

However, those who successfully assert the insanity defense grant the PSRB sweeping control over their lives. Depending on the severity of the crime committed, the PSRB (in consultation with community-based mental health providers) determines the settings clients are released into along with what sort of treatment and supervision they receive. Some clients living in more independent settings may have to check in twice a day with mental health workers. If someone is placed under the purview of the PSRB, odds are it will have authority over them longer than if they had gone to prison. Sometimes they will remain under the board’s authority for life. For most PSRB clients, the first stop after successfully pleading insanity is the Oregon State Hospital.

“We have the least amount of people in the hospital than we ever have, and the most amount of people in the community than we ever have,” says Follansbee. “And the reality is that whenever the hospital says someone is ready to be placed on conditional release, the board almost always approves it.”

Of the 559 people under the PSRB’s jurisdiction, 385 are on conditional release.

In 2011, lawmakers passed legislation that reformed the PSRB system and created a separate board run by the Oregon State Hospital to determine when patients, who haven’t committed violent crimes, can be released. Follansbee, who says there are about 90 people under the separate board, describes this reform as positive, saying that it offers patients one more avenue to obtain conditional release.

At the State Hospital, patients are subject to widely varying degrees of supervision, ranging from closely monitored settings to living semi-independently in group homes on the facility’s grounds. In late March, a patient at the State Hospital who had pleaded guilty except for insanity to an attempted murder charge walked away.

Rebeka Gipson-King, spokesperson for the Oregon Health Authority, says that people are often surprised that some patients live semi-independently at the State Hospital.

“The State Hospital is not a punishment,” she says. “They are sent there to get better.”

However, some mental health advocates have seen things differently.

“You have the use of the State Hospital as a punishment, a very expensive punishment,” says Chris Bouneff, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Oregon. Bouneff says that under the PSRB’s previous executive director, Mary Claire Buckley, clients would be sent back to the State Hospital for relatively minor infractions, such as failing a drug test, which could be addressed in a less costly way. “It certainly wasn’t helping with the smooth operating of our mental health operation,” he says.

Patrick, who doesn’t want his real name used in this article because he’s still under the jurisdiction of the PSRB, says that his defense lawyer talked him into pleading guilty except for insanity to what he says was a bogus burglary charge. His lawyer told him he would spend a few months in the State Hospital. Instead he got 10 years of being under the PSRB’s jurisdiction.

After spending three years in the State Hospital, he was released to a group home in Portland, where he says the threat of being sent back was used as a threat to keep residents in line.

“The overall structure is, if you bring an issue to your case monitor that could result in very negative things happening to you,” he says.

An investigation into allegations that Buckley was verbally abusive was dropped following her resignation this past summer. She was hired by the Portland Police Bureau as a policy analyst in November.

Follansbee wouldn’t speak to criticisms leveled against her predecessor, but she did say that she wants clients, victims and mental health advocacy organizations, which she refers to as “partners,” to be heard throughout the process.

“They often have competing interests and views,” she says, noting that stakeholders’ interests won’t always align. “That’s challenging, and one of the ways we want to work collaboratively is to build relationships where all of our stakeholders feel like they’re getting a fair shake.”

Although Follansbee says she doesn’t want to keep someone in the hospital unnecessarily, she says a cautious approach is still needed.

Oregon law directs the board to have “as its primary concern the protection of society” when making decisions regarding the conditional release or discharge of patients. And to get out of the hospital, patients still have to go through four separate layers of approval, all of which  Follansbee says are needed.

“The data suggests that slow incremental moves will give our clients the tools, so when they are no longer under our board, they can continue their stability,” says Follansbee. “It’s clear by our recidivism rate that when you’re under our board you’re going to remain stable.”

One thing that everyone agrees on is that the PSRB has been effective in carrying out its public safety mandate. The recidivism rate for the PSRB for the last 15 years is 2.66 percent. Of the 1,655 people who’ve obtained conditional release over the last 15 years, only 17 have committed new felonies.

“When you look at Mary Clare Buckley’s record and lack of recidivism, it’s clear that she didn’t take a lot of chances on people,” says Jason Renaud, spokesperson for the Mental Health Association of Portland.

“It seems like what happens when you have a strong personality in charge of an organization, the process just sort of fades,” says Bob Joondeph, the executive director of Disability Rights Oregon. Although the PSRB is designed to move carefully, he says, Follansbee has so far “brought a less hierarchical and more collaborative approach to making the process work the way it’s supposed to.”

Joondeph says that movies and TV have long fueled the notion that mentally ill people are dangerous and need to be locked up. He says that the PSRB should focus more on recovery and individuals under it should receive treatment in the least segregated settings possible, which he says the board doesn’t have the best track record on.

“It’s a difficult position to be in because public safety is our mandate,” says Follansbee. “It’s difficult to have everyone in our system happy with the results.”

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Jessie Bratcher, Iraq War vet ruled guilty but insane in 2008 murder, is freed from hospital

Posted by Jenny on 9th February 2014

Jessie Bratcher

Jessie Bratcher

By Jenny Westberg, Portland Mental Health Examiner, Feb. 9, 2014

An Iraq War veteran, who was found guilty but insane on murder charges due to PTSD, was released Friday from the Oregon State Hospital after the state’s review board determined he no longer has a mental illness.

Jessie Bratcher‘s 2009 trial, for the murder of a man he believed had raped his fiancée, was the first in Oregon – and one of the first in the U.S. – that successfully used a defense based on Iraq War service-related PTSD.

Bratcher faced a possible 25 years in prison if convicted in the shooting death of Jose Ceja Medina — the first murder in the rural Oregon town of John Day since 1992.

At trial, the prosecutor argued Bratcher was faking or exaggerating his PTSD. But the jury concluded Bratcher was, in fact, severely affected by symptoms that had plagued him since his combat service in the Middle East.

Judge William D. Cramer, Jr. sentenced Bratcher to life under the supervision of the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board.

“Although the state fought that [PTSD] diagnosis, there really was no issue about that,” Bratcher’s attorney, Markku Sario, said in 2010.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that develops in response to traumatic events. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, feeling tense or “on edge,” and avoiding situations that bring back the trauma.

Many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans develop the syndrome – about 1 in 5, according to the RAND Corporation. Yet only half seek treatment. And those who do often get substandard care.

In 2005 Bratcher saw his friend crushed to death after an Iraqi truck crashed into their Humvee. A few weeks later, Bratcher was in another Humvee when a roadside bomb exploded — at the same intersection.

After that, Bratcher became hostile and withdrawn. He had recurrent anxiety, depression and mood swings.

“He went from ‘Mr. Nice Guy to Mr. I Don’t Care Whatever Is Going to Happen,'” his sergeant said.

When he returned to the U.S., he continued to struggle. He had flashbacks of his friend’s death. Sometimes he camped in the woods, setting up a military perimeter around him.

He sought help from a psychotherapist and was evaluated by the Veterans Administration. Though the VA is reputedly leery of vets’ PTSD claims, there was no argument over Bratcher’s diagnosis.

At age 25, plagued by symptoms, unable to hold a job, the VA rated him 100% disabled.

Before his deployment, Bratcher had been a “model citizen” – a churchgoing small-town boy with no criminal record.

Just a few years after, he was in pain so severe it finally exploded into tragedy.

Bratcher’s defense attorney, Sario, said the case won’t be a legal rarity for long: “We’re going to have one of these PTSD cases after another.”


Are you a vet in crisis? Know someone who is? Help is available, all hours, all days.

  • Veterans Crisis Line, confidential support 24/7, 1-800-273-8255, press 1
  • Or click: Veterans Resource Locator
  • Locally, you can also call the Multnomah County Crisis Line, 503-988-4888

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What is the Psychiatric Security Review Board?

Posted by CoffeeX3 on 19th October 2013

Psychiatric Security Review Board Conditional Release and Community Treatment Facilities

DOWNLOAD – full format PDF of this text.
READ – legal basis for the Psychiatric Security Review Board


When someone commits a crime and is found by the Courts to be “guilty except for insanity,” he or she is placed under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB) or the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).

(January 2013)

589 Number of people currently under PSRB jurisdiction.
192 Number of people under PSRB jurisdiction in Oregon State Hospital.
385 Number of people under PSRB jurisdiction who are on conditional release from the state hospital.

1650 Number of people who obtained conditional release in the last 15 years.
16 Number of people in last 15 years who were revoked as a result of being charged with a felony while on conditional release.
2.42% Recidivism rate for PSRB Clients since 1998.

Individuals found guilty except for insanity are placed under the jurisdiction of the PSRB or OHA for the maximum sentence length provided by statute for the crime. Depending on the offense, that can be for decades, or even life.

Historically, PSRB authority over an individual has lasted longer than Department of Corrections’ system authority.

While under PSRB jurisdiction, an individual can be housed in the Oregon State Hospital or in a variety of residential treatment settings, ranging from Secure Residential Treatment Facilities to independent living.

The PSRB determines what kind of facility is appropriate based on the level of treatment, care and supervision required.

Mission of the Psychiatric Review Board – Public Safety

Oregon State law is explicit that PSRB must put public safety first. ORS 161.336(10) states: “In determining whether a person should be committed to a state hospital or to a secure intensive community inpatient facility, conditional released or discharged, the board shall have as its primary concern the protection of society.”

Conditional release under PSRB authority – Proven Public Safety Record

The PSRB has been successful in carrying out its mission. In the last 15 years, only 16 people out of the more than 1650 who were placed on conditional releases have been charged with new felonies.

The cumulative recidivism rate for the last 15 years for the PSRB is 2.42 percent. By comparison, as of 2009 the recidivism rate for individuals in the Department of Corrections system was more than 20 percent after being on parole or probation for three years.


Oregon State Hospital
• 192 individuals
• Locked 24/7
• 24-hour supervision
• Off-site privileges based on public safety and level of care needed.

Secured Residential Treatment Facility (20% of Conditional Release Clients)
• Locked 24/7
• Egress controlled by staff
• Off-site privileges based on public safety and level of care needed
• 6-16 individuals per facility

Residential Treatment Facility/Home (32%)
• Unlocked
• 24-hour awake supervision
• Up to 16 individuals per facility

Adult Foster Home (10%)
• Unlocked
• 24-hour staff
• Up to 5 individuals
• Some clients with state variance allow for four hours home alone

Semi-independent/supported Housing (15%)
• Varies from individual apartments to shared housing
• Staff part time at the site

Intensive case management (3%)
• Independent living situation
• Staff contacts at least 2X per day with at least one at residence
• Case management team approach

Independent living (self, with family) (19%
• In regular apartment or houses
• Frequent home visits by case manager

Other (1%)

Most PSRB clients begin their treatment at the Oregon State Hospital. When clients are conditionally released they are carefully monitored by the PSRB. They are subject to immediate return to the state hospital if they violate the terms of their release order.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are people who have been found GEI ever sentenced to the Oregon State Hospital?

A: No. The GEI statute calls for individuals to be placed under the jurisdiction of the PSRB if they committed Measure 11 crimes or the Oregon Health Authority for other offenses.

Q: How is the length of time at the Oregon State Hospital established?

A: The period of time individual PSRB clients stay at OSH is based on a clinical assessment of the individual’s mental status and progress in treatment at the hospital and a risk assessment as to their dangerousness as well as the availability of the appropriate resources in the community. If it is determined that a person can be safely managed and treated in a community setting, the PSRB attempts to find an appropriate placement.

Q: Is the state trying to move PSRB clients out of the state hospital and into the community and what kind of impact will that have on public safety?

A: Because of additional funding from the Oregon Legislature since 2005, an increased number of PSRB clients have been moved into a variety of new community placements, including Secure Residential Treatment Facilities (SRTFs). Since more of these facilities have opened, there has not been any increase in the recidivism rate.

Q: Is it safe to move people who have committed violent crimes into the community?

A: State law prohibits the Board from putting anyone on Conditional Release who is determined to be presently dangerous to others. Additionally, before individuals are released, they go through a comprehensive screening process that includes four levels of review. In all cases, including person-on-person crimes, victims who want notification are contacted in advance, as is the District Attorney’s office that first prosecuted the case.

Conditional Release is not a new policy. The PSRB has supervised clients in the community on conditional release since its inception in 1978. Over the past 15 years, 1650 conditional releases have been granted to individuals who have transitioned into community placements throughout the state of Oregon. Some of these clients remain under supervision for decades or even life.

Q: Who is notified when someone is being considered for conditional release?

A: By law, the district attorney from the committing county is notified along with the judge who signed the judgment order. Also, the victim(s), if they requested such notification. The Attorney General’s office, the client’s attorney and the client’s case manager are also notified.

For more information: Juliet Follansbee, Interim Executive Director of the Psychiatric Security Review Board at (503) 229-5596.

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Who are the “Stakeholders” in Oregon’s Mental Health System?

Posted by CoffeeX3 on 26th September 2013

With the resignation earlier this year of Mary Claire Buckley as director of the Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB) after a state investigation found she “regularly belittled, criticized, swore and screamed at employees, to the point that one woman confessed to crying for 45 minutes after an encounter”, the State of Oregon is now seeking applicants to fill the position of Executive Director. Juliet Follansbee is currently acting as the board’s interim director.

Recently, the board sent out an email to “valuable stakeholder(s)” soliciting input. It reads, in part:

“Dear Psychiatric Security Review Board Stakeholder,

Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God

Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God

The state of Oregon is beginning the process of selecting the next Executive Director of the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB) agency. We consider you to be a valuable stakeholder and would greatly appreciate your insight and perspective. Thus, we would like to request approximately five minutes of your time to provide us with your thoughts on the attributes you believe we should be looking for in the next Executive Director to lead PSRB. Information provided in this survey may be subject to public disclosure. It is anonymous but not confidential.

Please click on the following link by September 18, 2013 to access our survey: Psychiatric Security Review Board Stakeholder Feedback Survey<; [now closed]”

Many advocates from around the state have expressed concerned that they only learned of the survey after it had closed. This raises the issue of whom the PSRB considers “stakeholders”, as well as concerns over transparency. Twyla Lawson, Senior Human Resources Consultant for the Chief Human Resources Officer stated the survey email “went out to listservs that the PSRB maintains”.

Randy Altstock, whose son has been under the PSRB for 8 years and in The Oregon State Hospital for a combined 6 years was frustrated but not surprised that he wasn’t considered a stakeholder and offered a chance to provide his input. “The board has never listened to the families. We know what our son needs better than anyone; instead they have just kept him isolated and things have gotten worse.”

A person currently under the jurisdiction of the PSRB who wished to remain anonymous stated “We find it offensive that the former executive director was only ousted after complaints of abuse against ‘real’ people. Those of us under the board and our families have had to suffer under a tyrant for decades. We often spend far more time under the board than one would do in prison for a similar offense even though the state’s own statistics show we are an order of magnitude less of a risk. We can only conclude that this disparity in oversight and cost to the taxpayer results from the State of Oregon discriminating against those found to have a mental illness.”

He continued, “We want an executive director that understands there is a known connection between enforcing the Olmstead Act and the board’s mission of ensuring public safety. We want someone that will frequently visit and interact with clients at OSH and out in group homes, as well as our families. We’re tired of being hidden away for years simply to fabricate a low recidivism rate to justify an ever-expanding budget to the state legislature. We are people with families and lives – not political tools to be vilified so the state can fear-monger its way into more and more locked away citizens.”

The Psychiatric Security Review Board can be contacted at (503) 229-5596. Twyla Lawson can be reached at: 503-373-7677.

Oregon PSRB Executive Director Opportunity

The Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB) has an exceptional opportunity for an experienced leader to serve as their Board’s Executive Director. The Executive Director is responsible for the overall direction of the agency in supporting the Board’s mission to protect the public through the ongoing review of the progress of “guilty except for insanity” adults and “responsible except for insanity” youth and a determination of their appropriate placement as well as through hearings to decide whether persons with mental health determinations should have their federal and State firearm privileges restored. This is a permanent, full-time, executive service position located in Portland, Oregon.

This position requires graduation from an accredited law school with a J.D. degree AND four years of experience in supervision, staff-technical, or professional-level work related to the legal system. The salary will be dependent on qualifications and experience at a rate of up to $120,000/year plus benefits. The complete recruitment announcement can be found at the following website: The recruitment is scheduled to close at the end of the day, Tuesday, October 15, 2013. If you are interested, please apply now.

Please forward this to anyone who may be interested in this opportunity. I invite you to contact me (Twyla Lawson) at (503) 373-7677 if you have any questions about this or other opportunities within the State of Oregon.

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Clackamas deputy meets with man who shot him

Posted by CoffeeX3 on 19th September 2013

From The Oregonian, September 18, 2013

The last time Nick Teixeira saw Damon Coates, he shot Coates in the face. When they met on Wednesday, Teixeira handed Coates a religious medallion and asked for forgiveness.

It was a rare, if not unprecedented, moment that followed a hearing at the Oregon State Hospital, where Teixeira has lived since 2005. The shooting left Coates, a highly popular and respected Clackamas County sheriff’s sergeant, partially paralyzed.

Nick Teixeira

Nick Teixeira

Coates, his wife Tammy and their three adult children, asked to meet with Teixeira after a state Psychiatric Security Review Board hearing to determine whether Teixeira could transfer to a secure but less restrictive mental health facility in Pendleton. In 2003, Teixeira was sentenced to 20 years under the jurisdiction of the board.

During the private meeting, which lasted around 20 minutes, Teixeira told his victim there’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t think about it, Tammy Coates said.

Teixeira, now 25, “teared up and cried and shook (Damon’s) hand,” said Tammy Coates. He gave Damon Coates a small religious token imprinted with the words, “Don’t be afraid. I’m with you always.”

Teixeira was 15 when he shot Coates during a psychotic episode. Teixeira’s parents, alarmed by his behavior, which was partly fueled by meth, had called 911, and Coates was one of several deputies who responded.

Coates, about to pat down Teixeira, asked him if he had any weapons. Teixeira said no, then pulled out a stolen .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun and shot Coates. Another deputy then shot Teixeira.

The tragedy devastated the deeply religious Coates family.

“I was harboring a lot of hate. I didn’t have any forgiveness in me,” said son Jesse Coates.

That changed Wednesday as the family hugged Teixeira, embracing him as a lost soul deserving of compassion.

“We’re all scarred in different ways,” Jesse Coates said.

Such face-to-face encounters are rare, said Teixeira’s attorney Harris Matarazzo, a 25-year veteran of such hearings. “If this isn’t the first, there haven’t been more than two or three.”

Teixeira is impulsive and immature, but he is rational, clear-headed and shows no signs of delusions, a state hospital psychiatrist and psychologists told the state Psychiatric Security Review Board, which approved the transfer to Pendleton. The board rejected the move in 2010.

Dr. Sara Walker, a state psychiatrist, said Teixeira is “polite, cooperative, his thought process is clear and rational” and has not taken psychiatric drugs since 2007. He has gone on supervised group outings and had unsupervised off-campus visits with his grandparents.

“That’s a good as we expect people to get in this facility,” Walker said.

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Mary Claire Buckley, while head of PSRB, was a bully who screamed and swore at staffers, according to interview transcripts

Posted by Jenny on 25th July 2013

Mary Claire Buckley, then-director of the PSRB, addresses the Emergency Board as Janette Williams (L) and Bob Nikkel listen.

Mary Claire Buckley, then-director of the PSRB, addresses the Emergency Board as Janette Williams (L) and Bob Nikkel listen.

By Hannah Hoffman, Statesman Journal, July 25, 2013

Mary Claire Buckley, former director of the Psychiatric Security Review Board, regularly belittled, criticized, swore and screamed at employees, to the point that one woman confessed to crying for 45 minutes after an encounter and another employee told investigators they “had never had a job this bad.”

Buckley, who ran the agency for more than 20 years, resigned in June after being on administrative leave since May 2. Board chairwoman Kate Lieber requested an administrative review of Buckley on April 25 and Buckley resigned about a month later.

The Department of Administrative Services began an investigation but did not complete it, spokesman Matt Shelby said. However, the Statesman Journal obtained transcripts of interviews with staffers via a public records request.

READInterview transcripts (PDF, 6.2MB FIXED)

The state released them Wednesday, with most of the staff names redacted. Buckley could not be reached for comment.

An incident between Buckley and another employee on April 12 spurred the investigation, records show. However, problems had been ongoing.

The PSRB consists of a small staff and 10 board members appointed by the governor. It has jurisdiction over people in Oregon found “guilty except for insanity” of a crime. Since 2005, it also has had jurisdiction over youth found “responsible except for insanity.”

The board has the authority to commit a person to the Oregon State Hospital, conditionally release or discharge a person from the hospital, or revoke that release.

The employee involved in the April encounter had an email exchange with Susan Hoeye, a human resources consultant in DAS, shortly after the incident. Hoeye told her:

“While the incident between you and Mary Claire triggered DAS to come in when it did, the Board had received word the work environment was suffering and DAS would have come in at some point in the near future.”

That incident was recalled nearly a dozen times over the course of the interviews. Employees described it this way:

Buckley wanted a state-issued wireless card installed in her personal computer, which she used for work purposes as well. Of the people who could help her, one went home early because they were ill.

“You’ve got to be f**king kidding me. She went home for (redacted)?” Buckley said when she saw the employee had left.

The other available employee told Buckley she didn’t know how to install the device in an Apple computer; Buckley began to scream at her. One employee said the screaming was so loud “voices were distorted.” The employee went into her office, crying, and Buckley continued to yell. The employee reported crying for 45 minutes after the incident.

Another said they “had never experienced something so unprofessional in 22 years of work” and “felt shaken after the incident.”

But the reports didn’t stop there. Employees said Buckley’s behavior was all over the map.

“Volatile,” one called her. “It’s like waiting for a bomb to go off. She’s laughing one minute and mad at the world the next minute.”

Some said she called staff “stupid” or “bitch” in front of other employees. Some nicknamed her “She Who Must Not Be Named,” a reference to Lord Voldemort, the villain in the Harry Potter children’s book and movie series.

Multiple employees told a story in which Buckley flew into a rage because a chocolate cake was delivered to the office during Lent, even though she famously gives up chocolate for Lent every year, which the staff knows.

Many said she damaged relationships with the board and defense attorneys, and said she changed her mind about what she wanted from employees constantly.

One quoted her as saying, “I can change my mind whenever I g**dam**d feel like it.”

But the reports were not all bad.

Some employees said her behavior changed as the board handled more cases and the staff grew in recent years, and a couple referenced a “personal tragedy” in her life that sparked the change. A Boston Globe obituary shows that Buckley’s mother died in December 2010.

Employees said Buckley was “very smart, with an incredible memory” and that she was a “very caring” person in some circumstances. More than one said her erratic and angry behavior was a new development, and some said she was different outside work, more relaxed and easygoing.

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