External Investigator to Review Issues Related to Oregon State Mental Hospital Admissions

PORTLAND — Oregon health officials and disability advocates have reached agreement over a dispute over admission to the state’s psychiatric hospital.

In court files filed Friday, Handicap Rights Oregon and Metropolitan Public Defender have agreed to an outside expert investigation into long-term capacity issues with the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Even before the pandemic, many people in the justice system with mental illness who needed hospital-level care in local prisons were waiting for that care. Lawyers and health officials say staffing problems, hospital management and strong demand have exacerbated the crisis.

Lawmakers and advocates for people with disabilities have said the state needs more community-based treatment and housing options to prevent people from reaching crisis or to support them when they leave hospital care.

dr. Debra Pinals has been hired as a neutral party to study the hospital and make recommendations on how to alleviate the hospital’s capacity problems, officials said. Pinals works for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as the medical director of behavioral health and forensic programs.

Friday’s agreement also limited the time people found guilty, except for insanity, had to wait for admission to four months.

This fall, a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge twice found the state hospital in contempt and fined two people who were guilty except for insanity.