Superintendent of Oregon Hospital Resigns amid State Investigation

From The Oregonian, July 22 2003

The superintendent of Oregon State Hospital resigned Monday following a highly publicized patient escape and a state investigation alleging that a senior staff psychiatrist abused a patient.

Stanley Mazur-Hart‘s resignation will take effect Sept. 30. He has headed the state hospital’s Salem and Portland campuses since 1991.

Barry Kast, assistant director for the Department of Human Services’ Health Services, declined to comment on whether Mazur- Hart was asked to resign, saying only, “We discussed it with him.”

“It’s not been a pleasant month or two, and there’s been a recognition that new leadership may be the way to go,” Kast said. “I think it’s time for a change, and I think Stan agreed with that.”

Mazur-Hart did not return phone messages left Monday at his office and home.

His resignation comes at a time of increasing scrutiny for the state hospital system, which receives nearly half of Oregon’s budget to care for people with mental illness, yet serves only 1.5 percent of them.

Earlier this month, the hospital was locked down after a patient escaped July 3 from an overcrowded forensics ward. Michael Marks, 23, was captured six days later by Clark County sheriff’s deputies.

Last week, The Oregonian reported state investigators determined that Dr. Charles E. Faulk, a full-time ward psychiatrist at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, stopped prescribing psychiatric medications to Neil Norton, 59, after accusing him of being “a pill seeker.” Norton was in a secure ward of the hospital after having been found guilty except for insanity in a Washington County arson case in 2002.

During the seven months Norton was denied the medicine, he became so depressed he was psychotic, according to an investigative report obtained by the newspaper. He lost almost 40 pounds, frequently cried through the night and became convinced that someone had left a dead fetus near a soda machine on the ward.

Records indicate the doctor visited Norton only once in this period and ignored staff warnings that the patient’s condition was deteriorating.

Faulk intervened in January with six electroshock treatments instead of the medications that had worked for Norton.

Became superintendent in 1991 “There are concerns about the quality of patient care,” Kast said Monday when asked whether the Faulk case played a role in Mazur-Hart’s resignation. “Some of that has to do with resources, but it has to do with supervision, too.”

Kast declined to say what disciplinary action, if any, would be taken against Faulk. The psychiatrist has been on paid leave since May 15, DHS officials said.

After earning his doctorate in psychology from the University of Nebraska in 1976, Mazur-Hart taught college in Michigan before joining the Department of Human Services in 1980 as a clinical psychologist at the state hospital.

He became the hospital’s chief psychologist the following year and served as acting superintendent for seven months in 1987. In December 1987, was named superintendent at the now-closed Dammasch State Hospital in Wilsonville.

Mazur-Hart became Oregon State Hospital superintendent in 1991. At the time, DHS officials lauded him as a “hard-line” administrator who would run a “tighter ship.” His promotion came after 23 patients had escaped in one year under the previous administration.

On Monday, Kast lauded Mazur-Hart’s “remarkable progress in patient care and in safety and security at the hospital.” He also noted that Mazur-Hart had improved staffing levels.

But Kast and Human Services director Jean Thorne also said a department work group recently pointed to problems in medical care at the hospital, which was part of the decision to seek new leadership.

“I don’t want to diminish what he accomplished,” Thorne said. “But our work group illustrated a number of changes that need to be made in how the state hospital operates.”

Kast said Mazur-Hart, who was paid $101,844 a year as superintendent, probably would remain on the department’s payroll in another capacity, probably “in a management position related to mental health work.”

In his resignation letter to Kast, Mazur-Hart said the hospital’s accomplishments “are the direct result of hard-working, dedicated employees, both clinical and non-clinical, both union and management staff. The result is more effective and safer care and treatment for the patients we serve.

“These accomplishments are especially noteworthy because they have occurred in antiquated, deteriorating facilities while the hospital has been significantly overcrowded and understaffed.”

Kast would not release the full text of the letter, saying it is a personnel matter.

Patients responded to the resignation with cheers, song and strong support for new leadership.

“With Dr. Mazur-Hart leaving, there’s a chance we can improve things here,” Norton told The Oregonian on Monday.

But not all patients were optimistic change would come soon.

“I think that the Oregon State Hospital has a deep-rooted problem that’s not going to just scatter away with the departure of Stanley Mazur-Hart,” said Wayne Skeen, a 22- year-old patient. “Patient care needs to be the priority, and right now I don’t think that’s the case.”