Oregonians should take advantage of a unique opportunity to help finance production of a commercial-quality documentary film on a fascinating subject: the Oregon State Hospital in Salem.
And, yes, fascinating is the right word. In a state known far and wide as a bastion of progressive values, the 126-year-old institution is a grotesque anomaly. Its original structure, built in 1883 as the Oregon Asylum for the Insane, is still there, and part of it is still in use. No new buildings have been erected on the hospital campus in more than a half a century.
The place is an overcrowded, inhumane dump — an environment so awful that Hollywood producers chose it as the setting for the movie classic “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” That was more than three decades ago. It’s even worse today.
In 2005, The Oregonian called it “a 19th century fright house” in an editorial series that called on lawmakers to replace it. Now the state is indeed about to begin tearing portions of it down in preparation for construction of a state-of-the-art new psychiatric hospital.
Cue the cameras: Before the wrecking ball strikes, however, the Mental Health Association of Portland, Oregon’s foremost independent advocate for persons with mental illness and addiction, wants to produce a high-quality documentary on the hospital. The group has lined up a terrific director, Portland’s own Brian Lindstrom, director of the acclaimed documentary “Finding Normal,” a heart-wrenching look at recovery from drug addiction by addicts in Portland.
Movies cost money, though, and here’s where everyone can help. Send your contributions directly to the Mental Health Association of Portland (a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, at P.O. Box 3641, Portland, OR 97208. You can learn more about this exciting project here.