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Outside investigator to review Oregon State Hospital issues

December 18, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon health officials and disability advocates have come to an agreement on a dispute over admission to the state’s psychiatric hospital.

In court records filed Friday, plaintiffs Disability Rights Oregon and Metropolitan Public Defender with the Oregon Health Authority agreed to have an outside expert study long running capacity issues, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Even before the pandemic, many people in the criminal justice system with a mental illness who needed hospital level care waited for that care while in local jails. Advocates and state health officials say staffing issues, hospital management and a surge in demand have exacerbated the crisis.

Lawmakers and advocates for people with disabilities have said the state needs more community based treatment and housing options to prevent people from reaching a crisis, or to support them as they leave hospital care.

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Dr. Debra Pinals has been hired as a neutral party to study the hospital and provide recommendations on how to alleviate the hospital’s capacity problems, officials said. Pinals works for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as the medical director of behavioral health and forensic programs.

Friday’s agreement also limited the amount of time people found guilty except for insanity will wait for admission to four months.

This fall, a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge found the state hospital in contempt twice, and ordered fines for failing to admit two people who were guilty except for insanity.