Umatilla County Mental Health Program on notice

From the East Oregonian, August 30, 2002 – not available elsewhere online

The Office of Mental Health and Addiction Services identified “serious deficiencies” in the Umatilla County Mental Health Program in an incident review dated Wednesday.

A letter to David Cooley, director of the county program, said the incident review stemmed from “a complaint from the Superintendent for the Eastern Oregon Psychiatric Center that the UCMH program is not sufficiently responsive to community needs for emergency mental health and crisis services and that it is difficult to obtain face-to-face crisis mental health assessments, particularly after regular office hours and on weekends.”

The letter went on to identify five areas of non-compliance with Oregon Administrative Rules and six required corrective actions that the county program must comply with.

The Umatilla County Mental Health program will begin a formal site review Sept. 17, according to the letter, which was signed by Madeline M. Olson, assistant administrator for the Office of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Included with the letter was a 17-page “Critical Incident Review of Crisis Services Umatilla County Mental Health Program Services” dated Aug. 1.

The East Oregonian received the letter and review in an anonymous fax.

Speaking for the county mental health program, Connie Caplinger, the director of Umatilla County Health and Human Services, said Thursday that the department had just received the report and had not had sufficient time to review it.

Caplinger said she would not comment on the report until discussing it with the county commissioners. That would happen Tuesday at the earliest, she said.

The report shows that the inquiry started after Maxine Stone, superintendent of the psychiatric center, and local law enforcement personnel requested that county mental health conduct a face-to-face assessment with an individual held in the county jail. The county organization responded by saying a face-to-face assessment was not warranted.

Instead, mental health recommended that the person be placed in jail until an evaluation could be done the following Monday.

The report said eventually there was a face-to-face assessment and the individual was placed on hospital hold in the psychiatric center.

In the report, staff interviewed from county mental health maintained that the superintendent had been overly aggressive in the situation and interfered with the county programs response to the incident.

The report estimates that Umatilla County serves an estimated 300 adults with serious and persistent mental illness , and case managers handle an average of 50 clients.

In the state office’s interview with Cooley, he said that “the superintendent had become personally involved and had lost objectivity.”

Cooley also said that without the superintendent’s intervention, the client in question would have been placed in jail, which would have been inappropriate, he conceded.

Patricia Feeny, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, said the review process was a standard tool used the insure the quality of care Oregonians received.

While the problems identified in the Umatilla County Mental Health Program were serious, she said, “It is something we are confident they have time to correct.”

The report included six points of action for the county Mental Health Program to complete by Sept. 12 or risk losing the Certificate of Approval issued by the state.

Among the recommendations the Mental Health Department must address are:

“Initiate an immediate review and revisions of policies and procedures pertinent to access of emergency mental health and crisis stabilization services including the provision of face-to-face assessments.”

Develop a training plan for outpatient services and case management responsibilities.

Request “training from the Office of Investigations and Training regarding mandatory reporting requirements pertaining to actual or suspected abuse of adults with mental illness.”