Oregon State Hospital reverses course and resumes admissions of mentally ill defendants

Oregon State Hospital reverses course and resumes admissions of mentally ill defendants
Oregonian, April 10 2020

The Oregon State Hospital is abandoning a policy that restricted admissions amid the coronavirus outbreak to certain mentally ill defendants.

The hospital, capable of serving more than 650 patients at campuses in Salem and Junction City, is an adult mental-health treatment center for those who have been civilly committed, found guilty except for reason of insanity, or are too ill to aid and assist in their criminal defense.

Hospital Chief Executive Officer Dolly Matteucci had announced in a March 14 memo that the hospital would restrict admissions for many “aid and assist patients,” thereby leaving mentally ill defendants in local jails. The policy still allowed jails to request expedited admission for anyone showing “psychotic symptoms compromising the immediate health and safety of the defendant” or for anyone displaying “active suicidal intent.”

But Matteucci announced in a memo Thursday that the hospital would change the policy to increase admissions at its campuses. The changes will go into effect Monday.

Matteucci said the hospital would continue to prioritize admissions of people found guilty except for reason of insanity and “aid and assist patients” who meet expedited admission criteria, but would also reopen admissions to other “aid and assist patients,” based on the order in which their court orders were signed.

The change in policy came after The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Thursday that restricting admissions for certain mentally ill defendants could put the hospital in violation of a judge’s 2002 order that established a seven-day timeline to move criminal defendants from local jails to the hospital if they were ordered to receive mental-health treatment.

“These restrictions were necessary to protect patients and limit the potential spread of COVID-19 within our two campuses and to allow the hospital to plan and designate special units for medically vulnerable patients and patients under investigation or COVID-19 positive,” Matteucci explained in her memo Friday.

Matteucci said the hospital will admit small groups of patients into a specialized unit over a five-day period. These patients will undergo a medical screening, a 14-day quarantine and an additional screening before being moved to other units.