Oregon Hospitals Are Trying to Revive a Lawsuit Against The Oregon Health Authority
The Mental Health Lawsuit Against The Oregon Health Authority is for Allegedly Violating Patients’ Rights
Just over a year ago in September, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Oregon State Hospital (OSH) were both sued by three hospitals. It was alleged that the two had failed to provide room for patients who had been admitted through civil commitments.
In May of this year, the case was dismissed by district Judge Michael W. Mosman after OSH agreed to expand its criteria for admitting patients that were civilly committed.
The four hospitals — Legacy Health, PeaceHealth, St. Charles Health System (who joined in against the state systems later down the line), and Providence Healthy and Services — attempted to convince Judge Mosman to reconsider reviving the suit, but their request was denied.
Now, in a recent appeal, the four hospitals have claimed that OHA has consistently failed to fulfill its responsibility to mentally ill patients.
According to the attorneys representing the hospitals, OHA has “adopted a practice of abandoning civilly committed patients in community hospitals” instead of ensuring that said patients had appropriate access to treatment. They claimed that the entity’s failure to do the latter has harmed both the patients and the medical hospitals that they end up in. This is because community hospitals just aren’t fit for providing long-term mental health treatment. They need to instead be in specialized long-term care facilities, such as Oregon State Hospital.
The Original Lawsuit
To understand the appeal, it’s important to understand the issues pertaining to the original lawsuit.
Allegedly, OSH and OHA have failed to provide room for civilly committed patients. These patients were not accused or charged with any crimes, but were still found to be a danger to either themselves or others. This means that their care is extremely important for both the safety of the patients and the people around them. Despite this, they were not admitted, and the two health-focused entities claimed it was due to their medical hospitals being forced to provide mental health treatment they were not equipped enough to give.
The state psychiatric hospital has a capacity crisis at this moment, and when paired with a ruling that places strict limits on who can be admitted into the institution, this has left community hospitals with nowhere left to send them.
In the original joint statement from the three facilities, they said, “The necessary components for safe and effective treatment provided at long-term care facilities — such as security, private rooms, kitchens and physical exercise — are not feasible at hospitals that are also responsible for meeting the short-term acute care needs of their communities. As a result, patients left in these environments by OHA do not receive needed care and, in many cases, decompensate back to unstable conditions.”
The state hospital’s response to such allegations have always been fairly vague, skirting around the issue, saying that they’re committed to helping their patients and are looking to build the right path forward.
They would soon go on to expand the criteria for those who can be admitted, but it would soon turn out that, according to the hospitals looking to revive the lawsuit, OSH and OHA have allegedly failed their duties as health care systems to provide for those they swore to treat.
Along with this lawsuit threatening to return, Oregon State Hospital has to worry about another lawsuit that has been filed separately, but still overlaps with the matter at hand.
The Disability Rights Oregon Lawsuit
Watchdog group Disability Rights Oregon has set their sights on Oregon State Hospital and has a lawsuit of their own lined up. Their suit is very similar to the one posed by the four hospitals, and through a court order from the group’s suit, the hospital is being forced to admit aid-and-assist patients, or those charged with a crime, but are not found mentally competent to defend themselves.
They are on a seven day deadline to do so for each patient, but it’s often unmet. It’s a time limit that the state hospital has been unable to meet for years, and because of this, patients have been left to stew in jail for months while still seeking treatments they were supposed to receive months beforehand.
Judge Mosman, who also dismissed the suit from the hospitals, imposed a time limit on how long a patient could stay inside the state hospital. They would be cleared out once the time limit was over, allowing room for more patients.
This decision has garnered tons of scrutiny from both advocacy groups and the public. Several district judges, counties, and attorneys have all filed to join in on the case, saying that if patients are released before treatment is complete, they could be a danger to the public.
Disability Rights Oregon also criticizes the hospitals saying that they’re speaking on behalf of patients, accusing them of simply trying to push patients out of emergency departments.