Investigation remakes future of state hospital

From the Salem Statesman Journal, December 30 2008

A federal civil-rights investigation of the Oregon State Hospital culminated in a January report slamming the facility for a litany of safety, supervision and treatment failures that violated patients’ rights.

The U.S. Department of Justice report cited wide-ranging problems, including excessive use of patient restraints, inadequate nursing care, medication errors, poor supervision of suicidal patients and subpar psychiatric treatment.

The report concluded that the 125-year-old facility “fails to provide patients at the Salem campus with a safe living environment.”

Among cases cited in the report:

-A male patient swallowed 30 spoons and 17 pencils, resulting in multiple stomach surgeries. The hospital’s response to his behavior was to restrain him, rather than seek to change his behavior.

-A suicidal female was placed in seclusion and physical restraints 11 times between May and September 2006. During that time, the hospital provided “no active intervention to teach her alternative behaviors,” the report said.

-A female patient committed 26 acts of self-injury and attempted suicide during a nine-month period, including seven incidents that occurred while she was receiving one-on-one supervision.

In response to the harsh federal criticism, state lawmakers approved adding 211 staff positions at the Salem psychiatric facility at a cost of $13 million per year. The state also moved forward with plans to replace the 125-year-old facility, which was deemed obsolete and unsafe by federal investigators and state-hired consultants.

In September, a groundbreaking ceremony at the state hospital campus along Center Street NE marked the official beginning of a five-year, $458 million two-hospital construction project designed to overhaul Oregon’s inpatient mental health system.

EXTRA – Department of Justice report on the Oregon State Hospital, January 2008