St. Charles Health System announced Tuesday it is joining a lawsuit against the Oregon Health Authority 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.
St. Charles is joining Legacy Health, Providence Health & Services and PeaceHealth in the lawsuit. They hospitals say the OHA 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.
“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,” Dr. Shane Coleman, clinical division director of psychiatry and behavioral health for St. Charles. said in a statement. “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.”
St. Charles says people who are considered are a danger to themselves or others may be civilly committed by the state for involuntary treatment for up to 180 days, under Oregon law.
“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,” read a statement from St. Charles.
But the hospital system claims the state is not transferring these people to an appropriate facility, but confining them to community hospitals for weeks or months.
“Community hospitals are not equipped, staffed or designed to provide long-term mental health treatment,” St. Charles said. “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.”
Central Oregon Daily News has reached out to OHA for a response and is waiting to hear back.
When the lawsuit was first filed in September, state hospital spokesperson Amber Shoebridge didn’t directly comment on the lawsuit but said officials remain focused on the care of the hospital’s patients and supporting them on their road to recovery.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.