Finding Help For Cascadia’s Clients

From, June 26, 2008

When Cascadia Behavioral Health ran into financial trouble this past spring, Multnomah County officials divvied up Cascadia’s caseload among the few alternative mental health providers.

The county presented a plan last week that’s big on promises – in terms of redistributing thirty percent of mental health services. But as Rob Manning reports, following through is not so simple.

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The trouble is figuring out which other providers are willing and able to take on Cascadia’s enormous patient load. Other mental health non-profits are also struggling financially, and have to look at their own bottom lines.

And some agencies have other problems.

For instance, the Tigard-based non-profit, Luke Dorf, is slated to take over the transitional care facility called “Bridgeview” from Cascadia. But Luke Dorf is currently facing a state investigation – not for financial problems – but because one of its voluntarily committed patients walked out of a secure facility in Cornelius.

Washington County Sheriff Rob Gordon has been a critic of Luke Dorf’s Connell House, because it is an insecure location for some potentially dangerous people. He says that recent escape is an example.

Rob Gordon: “When a person is in a secure facility, that brings a picture to people’s mind. I’m not sure that being able to escape that easily, with just the assistance of a chair, and not being discovered, and not telling us, would fit my definition of ‘secure’.”

Gordon and Luke Dorf leaders disagree over whether the state investigation should lead to big changes at Connell.

But when it comes to running a non-secure place, like Bridgeview, Gordon doesn’t have a problem with Luke Dorf.

Rob Gordon: “The short answer is Luke Dorf has a fairly high reputation with us and with other law enforcement agencies as a very competent provider of mental health services. And in some ways, I think they’re being unfairly cast as the villain in this.”

That’s only a small piece of the complex Cascadia puzzle, and some of the other big pieces are still being put together.

Two of Cascadia’s biggest clinics – in Gresham and Northeast Portland – serve nearly 600 clients. At least, on paper.

In the wake of Cascadia’s financial meltdown, some non-profit providers are wondering if they should take over Cascadia’s clinics and questioning the accuracy of those numbers. If the numbers are off, there won’t be sufficient income to support costs.

Multnomah County officials are hoping to settle the Gresham clinic’s future in the next week or so. The Northeast Portland building, though, is likely to close, raising the possibility of unwelcome changes for mentally ill clients.

Cascadia’s whole transition is expected to be complete by November.