Klamath Falls, Ore. – A recent State Senate Bill is changing the way Oregon counties must deal with court cases involving people with mental health issues.
Oregon Senate Bill 24 places limits on how many people a county can send to the state hospital.
Klamath Basin Behavioral Health Director Stan Gilbert explains the bill is aimed at helping to reduce the state budget. “The intention of the Senate Bill was to reduce the number of admissions to the state hospital.”
Klamath County Trial Court Administrator John Powell notes the bill addresses mentally ill persons who find themselves in the court system. “To address the problem of mental health evaluations – specifically, ‘aid and assist’ evaluations which are required in criminal cases.”
It costs between $1300 and $1400 a day to care for a patient in the Oregon State Hospital.
Powell says Klamath County began taking steps to address the problem by forming a specialty court. “A couple of years ago, we started what we call the Behavioral Health Intervention Court.”
“It keeps local people locally.” Adds Gilbert. “We’re able to treat them more effectively if they have access to friends and families, and other local support systems.”
Powell points out Judge Roxanne Osborne presides over the court in Klamath County. “She’s also on a statewide mental behavioral health committee which was just created last fall.”
Three years ago, Klamath County ranked seventh in the state for sending criminal defendants to the state hospital.
“We are just not sending people to state hospital now.” Gilbert notes. “So we are probably 30th, I would say, out of the 36 counties.”
Each Oregon county can develop their own solutions to comply with SB 24.
Oregon courts are now required to collect more information to study local statistics on the issue.
A statewide summit is taking place in March to discuss the bill further.
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