Providence, Legacy, And PeaceHealth Are Suing Oregon Over How They Treat Mental Health

Providence Health & Services, Legacy Health, and PeaceHealth say that the Oregon Health Authority has forced them to give care that they are not qualified to give.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Three of Oregon’s biggest hospital systems are suing the state because they say it doesn’t provide enough mental health care. They say that because of this, they have had to house people who need mental health care for months.

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In the lawsuit, Providence Health & Services, Legacy Health, and PeaceHealth say that the Oregon Health Authority has forced them to care for people who should be civilly committed to psychiatric institutions like the Oregon State Hospital but for whom they are not trained. This is according to The Oregonian and OregonLive.

Due to the ongoing capacity crisis at the state psychiatric hospital and a recent court ruling that puts strict limits on who can be admitted, community hospitals have nowhere to send patients who need mental health care. Hospital staff say they have no choice but to treat these patients for a long time.

“Security, private rooms, kitchens, and physical exercise, which are necessary for safe and effective care at long-term care facilities, are not possible at hospitals that are also responsible for meeting the short-term acute care needs of their communities,” the facilities said in a joint statement. “As a result, OHA patients who are left in these places don’t get the care they need and, in many cases, get worse and end up in unstable situations again.”

Amber Shoebridge, a spokeswoman for the state hospital, didn’t say anything specific about the lawsuit. Shoebridge told the newspaper that the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon State Hospital are still focused on taking care of the hospital’s patients and helping them get better while they look for a new way forward.

Even though a federal court order from last month says they can’t, the hospital systems want the Oregon State Hospital to start taking in civilly committed patients again.

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In August, a judge said that the hospital could only take in people who had been accused of a crime but were found to be unable to help their own defense or who had been found guilty except for insanity. This was done to stop the hospital from running out of space.

People who are “civilly committed” are people who a judge says are a danger to themselves or others and must be treated at the state hospital against their will. Most of the time, these people are first sent to an acute care hospital for short-term medical care.

The hospital systems say that the Oregon Health Authority is breaking the patients’ civil rights by not giving civilly committed patients enough space.

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