Oregon Hospitals Sue State Over Mental Health Care Treatment

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Three of Oregon’s largest hospital systems are suing the state over its alleged lack of adequate mental health care, which they say has forced the hospital systems to house patients in need of mental health treatment for months.

Providence Health & Services, Legacy Health and PeaceHealth say in the lawsuit the Oregon Health Authority has forced them to provide care they’re not equipped to give for patients who should be civilly committed to psychiatric institutions such as the Oregon State Hospital, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

The state psychiatric hospital’s ongoing capacity crisis, along with a recent court ruling that strictly limits who can be admitted, has left community hospitals with nowhere to send patients in need of mental health treatment. Hospital representatives say they have been forced to treat those patients long-term.

“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,” a joint statement for the facilities read. “As a result, patients left in these environments by OHA do not receive needed care and, in many cases, decompensate back to unstable conditions.”

State hospital spokesperson Amber Shoebridge didn't specifically comment on the lawsuit.

“Oregon Health Authority and 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,” Shoebridge told the newspaper.

The hospital systems want the health authority to start admitting civilly committed patients again at the Oregon State Hospital, although a federal court order issued last month says they cannot.

Trying to stem a capacity crisis at the hospital, a judge ruled in August that the hospital must only admit patients accused of a crime but found unable to aid in their own defense, or those found guilty except for insanity.

“Civilly committed” patients are those who have been deemed a danger to themselves or others, and whom a judge has ordered for involuntary treatment at the state hospital.

Those patients are often initially committed to an acute care hospital for short-term medical treatment only.

The hospital systems say Oregon Health Authority’s failure to provide adequate facilities for civilly committed patients is a violation of their civil rights.