Hatchet attack in Portland a sign of a bigger problem, mental health advocate says

KATU.com – December 21, 2018

A man is accused of attacking someone with a hatchet in downtown Portland, and court documents state that mental health issues may have played a role in the incident.

The suspect, 35-year-old Nathan Shrader, pleaded not guilty to the attack. The other man involved did not need to go to the hospital.

According to court records, Shrader told jail officers he’d stopped taking medication for his bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and attention deficit disorder before Wednesday’s incident. Police say he also admitted to using heroin and meth.

One mental health advocate says this reflects an all too common symptom of what’s driving a lot of downtown Portland crime.

“We think that almost everyone who’s arrested is drunk, loaded or mentally ill at this point. Portland’s in the midst of a mental health crisis and we’re really at a loss as to what to do about it,” said Jason Renaud with the Mental Health Association of Portland.

Shrader’s arrest Wednesday follows last July’s arrest of this man who also was sent for mental health evaluation after swinging a hatchet and knife at cars in Northwest Portland.

Renaud believes cases tied to mental health issues – especially among the homeless – are happening more often because there are limited resources for making sure those people are taking medication they need to keep them mentally stable.

“Yeah, we have programs that do this. They’re just very small. And the need is very large. We have probably a couple of thousand people in this state at this time who need this sort of help. And we have services for a couple hundred,” Renaud said.

The second-degree assault charges Shrader faces are the first felony charges he’s ever faced.

Ironically, Renaud says, if Shrader’s convicted he’ll get better mental health treatment.

“There’s a whole bunch of services that kick in once you have a felony. There’s lots of things that can happen now so he’s gonna get some help,” Renaud said.