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Criminalizing the Mentally Ill Indigent in Oregon

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An editorial (commentary/opinion) in the 1/25/08 Oregonian, “A costly wreck in need of a cleanup,” by Steve Tackett-Nelson, President of the Oregon Psychiatric Association, about mental health care in Oregon:

Excerpt from full article:

Over the past 30 years there has been a quiet movement to criminalize being mentally ill while indigent. No law was enacted, no edicts issued. But the unplanned effect of isolated events has been a gradual drift in public policy. And unplanned drift can have expensive consequences; remember the last voyage of the New Carissa.

In the 1980s it was possible for a person to sign in voluntarily to Oregon State Hospital if his mental symptoms became unbearable. But then came a drop in voluntary admissions and a surge of civil commitments. Why? The patients certainly hadn’t changed. The answer is that the state hospital stopped accepting voluntary admissions.

Now it’s nearly impossible to voluntarily get into a psychiatric hospital, even when a person is dangerous to himself or others. Psychotic patients stack up in emergency rooms every weekend. When they finally get into a community hospital, the race is on to get them out the door again….”

Full article, here.

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