Oregon health systems fire back at state in mental healthcare lawsuit

Four large Oregon health systems are squaring up with the Oregon Health Authority over their federal lawsuit they say protects the civil rights of patients with mental illness, KTVZ reported Jan. 26.

Bend-based St. Charles Health System, Portland-based Legacy Health, Renton, Wash.-based Providence Health & Services and Vancouver, Wash.-based PeaceHealth said their lawsuit aims to hold OHA to what they say are its legal obligations to provide adequate mental health treatment for involuntarily committed patients, the report said.

OHA asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit in a motion filed in December, the report said. The four systems submitted a response Jan. 26 highlighting what they said are multiple inaccurate statements by OHA.

Under Oregon law, the state can involuntarily commit people deemed a danger to themselves or others for treatment for up to 180 days, the report said. More than 500 patients with severe mental illnesses are involuntarily committed to the OHA for treatment annually.

The health systems claim those patients are often abandoned for weeks or months in community hospitals that are not equipped to provide long-term psychiatric care, the report said.

"We are taking this action because we need to care for more patients in our hospitals," Shane Coleman, MD, clinical division director for psychiatry and behavioral health services at St. Charles, told KTVZ. "We can’t do that currently, because we are devoting beds and caregivers to civilly committed patients who no longer need hospital-level care or need to be in the state hospital. If the state chose to meet its legal obligation to provide care for civilly committed patients, then our local community hospitals could better meet the needs of our communities."

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