Deschutes needs beds before financing facility

Opinion editorial from the Bend Bulletin, January 5 2008

There aren’t enough beds in Deschutes County for all the people with mental health needs. So when the state proposed to bring a secure mental health facility to Bend, have the county incur debt and give the county some beds, Deschutes County officials were pleased.

Now that the state wants to change its proposal, the county should not carry building debt if it is not going to get beds.

The original deal was to allow the state to build a secure facility, likely near the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office in Bend. In return, the county would get some of the beds.

Oregon’s Psychiatric Security Review Board recently told the county that it does not want its patients in the same facilities as county patients.

We’re not sure why. It may have to do with safety. Over the holidays, we were not able to reach anyone at the board authorized to explain the board’s position.

The board was created in 1978, and its primary role is to protect the public. It decides what to do with people who are judged by the courts to be “guilty except for insanity” and remain mentally ill and dangerous. It has jurisdiction over the individuals up to the maximum sentence provided by statute for which the person was found guilty except for insanity. And it needs secure places to put such people.

The county replied with a new proposal that would create a 14-bed, locked residential treatment facility and two five-bed homes. The county would get six beds for its clients in the less-restrictive homes.

For now, Deschutes County Commissioner Dennis Luke is suitably wary about approving the sale of bonds to finance the building until the county and state find a solution. The building will cost about $2.1 million.

Patty Wentz, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Human Services, did tell The Bulletin that the state and the county are trying to work out a deal. And as far as DHS is concerned, she said, there is no risk to the county beds.

That’s a good sign. Still, the county needs more than her assurances before it starts incurring debt. There has got to be a way to satisfy the needs of the Psychiatric Security Review Board and some of the county’s mental health patients.