St. Charles Health System joins Oregon hospitals in charging the state with violating civil rights of vulnerable patients
BEND, Ore. – In a move to protect the civil rights of vulnerable Oregonians, St. Charles Health System, based in Bend, Oregon, has joined Legacy Health, Providence Health & Services and PeaceHealth in a lawsuit against the Oregon Health Authority. The lawsuit, filed in September, aims to ensure the Oregon Health Authority fulfills its legal obligation to provide adequate mental health treatment capacity for civilly committed individuals.
The addition of St. Charles broadens the coalition, bringing representation from the largest health system east of the Cascades.
“Because the state is often refusing to take responsibility for civilly committed patients, we believe this patient population is not getting the care it deserves. The current situation is not good for the patients, our staff or the other patients we serve,” said Dr. Shane Coleman, clinical division director of psychiatry and behavioral health for St. Charles. “By joining this lawsuit, we hope OHA will hear our concerns and take action to build more capacity to serve these patients in an appropriate health care facility for the level of care they need.”
Under Oregon law, individuals who are a danger to themselves or others may be civilly committed by the state for involuntary treatment for up to 180 days. Acute care hospitals are often the first stop for many patients who require urgent care and short-term stabilization. Once that is achieved, the state is legally required to place these individuals in a facility that specializes in long-term treatment, such as secure treatment facilities or the Oregon State Hospital, and that can give them the appropriate and necessary care to enable them to regain their liberty.
Rather than transfer these individuals to an appropriate facility, the state is confining them in community hospitals for weeks or months. Community hospitals are not equipped, staffed or designed to provide long-term mental health treatment. The behavioral health units in these hospitals are intended to serve the community as acute care facilities where patients in mental health crisis can be evaluated, stabilized and discharged to the next appropriate level of care.
The Oregon Health Authority has not only failed in its responsibility to its most vulnerable population, but by relying on acute care hospitals, OHA has negatively affected the hospitals’ capacity to care for other patients experiencing acute mental health crises in their communities. Oregon is in the middle of an unprecedented mental health crisis, and community hospitals are desperately needed to treat and stabilize other vulnerable patients in crisis, many of whom are also struggling with substance abuse disorders and houselessness.
About St. Charles Health System
St. Charles Health System, Inc., headquartered in Bend, Ore., owns and operates St. Charles Bend, Madras, Prineville and Redmond. It also owns family care clinics in Bend, Madras, Prineville, Redmond, La Pine and Sisters. St. Charles is a private, not-for-profit Oregon corporation and is the largest employer in Central Oregon with more than 4,500 caregivers. In addition, there are more than 350 active medical staff members and nearly 200 visiting medical staff members who partner with the health system to provide a wide range of care and service to our communities.