Oregon State Hospital Oversight Ended by Federal Judge

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman has ruled that the Oregon State Hospital no longer requires increased oversight for mental patients with criminal charges. He also denied a request from Disability Rights Oregon for a future hearing on the matter. 

According to a federal court order from 2002, the state of Oregon cannot incarcerate anyone deemed mentally ill for more than seven days, at which point they must be sent to the state hospital. However, between October 2018 and July, the hospital has strained to keep up with the number of criminal defendants with court-ordered mental health treatments. Their lowest point was this April, when only 2% of defendants were getting to the hospital within a week.  

Noncompliance with the 2002 ruling was brought up by DRO in May, in an attempt to hold the hospital in contempt of court – the judge denied the contempt motion. Instead, the Oregon Health Authority was given 90 days to prove that they could cope with the backlog.   

By September, the hospital was up to 93%, which the judge deemed sufficient improvement.  

DRO also requested a status hearing on the hospital for six months out, supervision by an outside expert, and that the state cover DRO’s legal fees. All were denied by Judge Mosman, effectively ending the lawsuit against the hospital. 

Emily Cooper, the legal director of DRO, remains undaunted. “Nothing is going stop us from bringing this to the court’s attention if they fall out of compliance,” she said to the Oregonian. “We lost the battle but not the war.” 

In a statement, OHA Director Patrick Allen said “The judge’s decision affirms all the hard work that’s gone into addressing the hospital’s capacity challenges. However, there’s still more work to be done to combat the criminalization of people who are homeless and mentally ill. We look forward to continuing our partnerships with counties and local courts to ensure every person in Oregon who needs mental health care has timely access.”   

By Brandon Urey