St. Charles appeals to dismiss lawsuit over mental health patients’ civil rights

St. Charles Bend

There are four leading community hospital systems: Legacy Health, Providence Health & Services, PeaceHealth, and the State of Oregon.

The lawsuit, first filed in September 2022, alleges the state violated the civil rights of vulnerable Oregonians with severe mental illness.

The hospital systems lawsuit seeks to ensure that the Oregon Health Authority fulfills its legal obligation to provide adequate mental health treatment for civilized individuals in facilities designed and staffed for this purpose, instead of leaving them in acute care hospitals.

Judge Mosman dismissed the lawsuit in May, saying the hospitals lacked standing to bring claims forward for civil patients, according to The Oregonian

In a statement released last week and continued in full below, officials from the four hospital systems expressed disappointment at the judge’s dismissal, saying the lawsuit was filed “to promote the right of mentally ill persons to receive treatment in the most appropriate setting. and to hold the state accountable for its legal responsibilities to individuals.”

The four hospital systems allege that the Oregon Health Authority violated the constitutional rights of individuals by refusing to provide appropriate care aimed at restoring their independence. Patients are instead kept for weeks, months, or sometimes up to a year in restrictive settings in acute care hospitals without a treatment plan designed for long-term care needs. mental health.

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Leaving patients in emergency rooms for long periods, rather than giving them access to treatment facilities designed for long-term mental health care, also harms hospitals and the community by limiting the capacity of community hospitals to provide care to other patients who experience severe. mental health crises. This issue is especially critical today as we see a growing mental health crisis in our communities.

In a hearing on April 25, the coalition of hospital systems shared the real-world consequences of the state of Oregon’s failure to fulfill its legal obligations to vulnerable patients. At the Unity Center for Behavioral Health, for example, a civilly committed patient last year stayed 224 days, and half of the civilly committed patients they cared for were at the Unity Center for more than 30 days.

The other hospital systems shared similar data, showing that civilly committed patients experienced stays longer than 120 days at all three hospitals. The acute care inpatient care model is designed to care for patients for an average of 7 to 10 days.

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“Acute care hospitals were never designed to provide long-term care,” said Melissa Eckstein, President of the Unity Center for Behavioral Health. “These patients need to be in specialized long-term care facilities, such as a secure home treatment facility or the Oregon State Hospital, where they receive levels of care designed to defer long-term therapeutic care needs.”

Background of the Lawsuit

Under Oregon law, individuals who are a danger to themselves or others can be civilly committed to the state for involuntary treatment for up to 180 days. Generally, when a patient is civilly committed, they do not have the appropriate level of agency to participate in the necessary treatment. More than 500 individuals with severe mental illnesses are civilly committed to the Oregon Health Authority for treatment each year.

Acute-care hospitals are often the first stop for many patients who need urgent medical care and short-term mental health support. Once that is achieved, the state is legally required to place these individuals in facilities that specialize in long-term treatment, such as a secure residential treatment facility or the Oregon State Hospital. These facilities can provide patients with the appropriate and necessary care to enable them to regain their independence.

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Instead of transferring civil dependency patients to an appropriate long-term treatment facility, the state leaves them for weeks or months in community hospitals. Community hospitals are the middle ground for patients who need intensive support but can participate in their care and treatment. Community hospitals are not appropriate settings for long-term psychiatric care.

Behavioral health units in community hospitals are intended to provide short-term, high-quality care where patients in mental health crises can be rapidly assessed, stabilized, and discharged. within days to the next appropriate level of care. When patients with civil dependence occupy the space of a community hospital, they obtain necessary services for individuals who are experiencing an immediate episode of mental health crisis.