PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Three local hospitals are suing Oregon Health Authority for failing to take care of civilly committed mentally ill patients, saying the state is warehousing psychiatric patients in regular hospitals instead.
Legacy, Providence and Peace Health hospitals claim in the suit that OHA is abandoning civilly committed patients, who are considered a danger to themselves and others in community hospitals for up to a year.
One reason so many civilly committed patients are staying in regular hospitals for extended periods of time is because in 2019, Oregon State Hospital changed its admission guidelines — focusing mainly on accepting mentally ill patients in criminal cases. That decision is likely what left hundreds of civilly committed mentally ill patients in community hospitals.
Psychiatric nurse practitioner Lori Martin said they’re always at max capacity at the Oregon State Hospital.
“We don’t have any vacant beds,” she said. “As soon as someone is discharged, there’s already a list of people coming in.”
While the health systems claim OHA has violated the civil rights of Oregonians with severe mental illness, disability rights advocates aren’t convinced.
“We’ve got some real questions about who this lawsuit is serving,” said Emily Cooper, the legal director for Disability Rights Oregon.
Cooper said it seems like a fight over who should take a patient.
“We’re skeptical of the motivation of the hospitals in the complaint. They mention they’re not happy about community hospitals being private property without just compensation,” she said. “So it looks like the motivation is around money and not people. And that’s a problem.”
In a statement, OHA said they, as well as Oregon State Hospital “remain focused on the care of the hospital’s patients and supporting them on their road to recovery as they search for a new path forward.”
KOIN 6 News reached out to the spokesperson for the three hospitals who brought on the suit but have not heard back.