PSRB in the Albany Democrat Herald Mailbag

The danger of insanity

From the mailbag of the Albany Democrat Herald, May 31, 2012

The death of a health care worker in St. Helens is a tragedy. The bigger tragedy is that this could have been prevented.

I have spent several years trying to sound the alarm of a dangerous state policy that relaxes the classification of Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB) patients in order to move them into our neighborhoods and near schools.

The danger I warned about was that someone does not become a PSRB patient because you have a “mental health issue.” One becomes a PSRB patient by committing a heinous or violent act, getting arrested and going before a judge. Typically the state (DHS) then gets the DA not to pursue a criminal case and the judge sends the individual to the state hospital. After 24-36 months, the individual is moved to your neighborhood without law enforcement notification and all criminal charges evaporate. I have seen this.

In some of these cases, the state then claims the individual is disabled and bills the feds. PSRB patients are now starting to be housed with the developmentally disabled. It is my understanding that this is Medicare fraud and I have reported this to the appropriate congressional committees.

For several years I have repeatedly stated that someone is going to get killed. Health workers are not law enforcement. Assaults, rapes and child molestation routinely have occurred around these “homes.” During the last three sessions of the legislature, I have tried to get them to address this issue, including law enforcement notification. Leadership on both sides rejected it.

Instead of action, the legislature folded the issue into health care reforms and limited the PSRB’s ability to protect citizens and employees. On the record during these times through the Association of Oregon Counties, I am the ONLY COMMISSIONER outside of Linn County on record opposing this increased safety risk to citizens.

It has unfortunately become a lonely business trying to stand up for public safety in Oregon. My question then becomes: How many more children will be victimized and how many more people will die before elected officials in Oregon take this issue seriously?

John K. Lindsey, Linn County Commissioner, Albany (May 28)


The PSRB: A rebuttal

From the mailbag of the Albany Democrat Herald, June 1, 2012

I have to respectfully disagree with Commissioner Lindsey’s letter about the danger of insanity (Mailbag, May 31).

I have spent the last seven years studying the Oregon mental health system with the goal of helping my son get out from under it. Our greatest obstacle is the prejudice, misinformation, and outright disgust our society has towards the mentally ill. Information like Mr. Lindsey’s can only hurt.

The PSRB is charged with maintaining public safety, period. Patients are placed under the jurisdiction of the PSRB after a guilty but insane conviction of a crime; it doesn’t have to be heinous or violent. The conviction remains on the record; it doesn’t evaporate.

Only the PSRB can decide who stays in the state hospital, or a residential treatment facility, and for how long. The state cannot influence or order the PSRB to move patients into residential treatment facilities. The board does not concern itself with the fact that it costs Oregon taxpayers $750 per day per patient to house them in the state hospital or that the hospital is overcrowded. The board does not care if the patient has family and if life in the hospital is detrimental to him.

It is very difficult for a PSRB patient to get moved to a group home. It takes literally years for the patient to prove he or she is not a danger. Once in the group home, they follow a strict regime of supervision.

In all my previous research I had never found any evidence of residents of those homes assaulting, raping or molesting children. I did find a statistic that out in the last 10 years out of 1,300 placements there were 12 who committed new crimes. The overall recidivism rate is 2.2 percent over 34 years. Compared to 31 percent for the Department of Corrections.

The murder in St. Helens was the first in PSRB history. I don’t know much of the details but I am willing to predict that all the current PSRB patients are going to pay for it, only because of their diagnosis and the overall contempt.

Randy Altstock, Albany (June 1)


Mental illness and words

From the mailbag of the Albany Democrat Herald, June 5, 2012

After reading Commissioner Lindsey’s letter to the editor (Mailbag, May 31, 2012) regarding Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB) patients, I felt it important to bring another perspective to the issue.

My concern is that Commissioner Lindsey’s letter has the potential to generate unnecessary fear in the hearts and minds of our community and only increases the stigma of those who suffer a mental illness.

According to a PSRB fact sheet, which can be viewed online by going to www.leg.state.or.us/tomei/special_topics/psrb_factsheet_070208.pdf, the cumulative recidivism rate for the last 10 years for the PSRB is 2.2 percent. In comparison, the recidivism rate for individuals in the Department of Corrections system is 31.4 percent.

That statistic clearly shows that PSRB patients are actually less likely to reoffend than those who are not PSRB patients. This fact sheet also states that in the last 10 years, only 12 people out of the more than 1,200 who were first placed on conditional releases have been charged with new felonies.

For those in the community who suffer a mental illness or who are under the jurisdiction of the Oregon PSRB, please do not let one man’s words cause you unnecessary harm. You are a valuable member of our community with an illness that is sometimes misunderstood. My experience in talking with legislators and community leaders regarding the issues surrounding mental illness is that they do not share Commissioner Lindsey’s perspective.

As a community, let us learn the facts regarding mental illness and the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board, and may we be cautious with our words, as our words have the power to bring peace or promote fear and injustice.

Barbara A. Thayer, Albany (June 3)