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Oregon State Hospital temporarily halts civil commitments

The Oregon State Hospital is suspending all civil admissions until Dec. 27 to prioritize patients ordered by courts to receive competency restoration treatment.

The halt on civil commitments was announced in a letter Dec. 16 to the hospital’s statewide partners. It is effective immediately.

According to hospital spokeswoman Rebeka Gipson-King, the move is intended to help the hospital comply with a 2003 federal court ruling that requires criminal defendants ordered to receive treatment so they can meaningfully aid and assist in their own trial be admitted within seven days of a judge’s order.

“We wanted to make sure that we were still able to meet our legal obligations to the people who are coming in under aid and assist within the seven days,” she said.

Gipson-King said hospital administrators chose Dec. 27 for the suspension to expire because that’s when they feel the hospital will be able to start again accepting civil admissions and not be in danger of violating the seven-day rule.

The state hospital was sued early this year by advocacy group Disability Rights Oregon for not complying with the rule. In 2018, more than 200 patients had to wait longer than seven days, a problem that hospital administrators said was caused by an unforeseen influx of aid and assist patients the facility wasn’t equipped to handle.

Gipson-King said the suspension of civil admissions would force local hospitals and psychiatric care units to hold patients awaiting civil commitment a little longer than they might have expected.

“These are people whom a judge has said aren’t able to take care of their own basic needs and civilly commits them to the Oregon Health Authority, so they’re already on a waitlist to get into the state hospital,” she said. “They’re already in an acute care hospital with staff trained to meet their needs as opposed to our (aid and assist) population who we’re also trying to accommodate.”

The number of civil patients awaiting admission to the State Hospital has grown throughout 2019, from 15 in January, to 43 as of Dec. 16.