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DHS news release

September 20, 2004

Contact: Jim Sellers (503) 945-5738
Program contact: Barry S. Kast (503) 947-1185
DHS Assistant Director for Health Services


State hospital aggressive about pursuing allegations of abuse

Over the past decade, Oregon State Hospital has significantly strengthened measures to protect patient safety, Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) Director Gary K. Weeks said Monday.

"We have zero tolerance for abuse, a fact we continually reinforce to our employees," Weeks said. "We are also vigilant about preventing abuse and when we do receive such allegations, we address them expeditiously."

Weeks was responding to a two-part Oregonian series about abuse that occurred in the state hospital 10 or more years ago. DHS is the state agency responsible for operating the state hospital, which has campuses in Salem and Portland.

In the past 10-plus years, DHS has instituted a variety of measures to mitigate and respond to allegations of patient abuse and improved patient care including:

  • Instituted criminal history checks for all new employees, repeated with every change in position;
  • Implemented focused and aggressive training of staff - both initial and annual training regarding abuse reporting;
  • Separated the investigations from the institution;
  • Reduced the seclusion and restraint drastically over the past decade, so as to avoid unnecessary touching of patients;
  • Increased the staffing and developed a collaborative approach in the former Office of Client Rights, now known as the Office of Investigations and Training. Established regular quarterly meetings with the Office of Investigations and Training to review trends or patterns identified by investigation;
  • Adopted new administrative rules to govern the process of investigations and the timetable for the completion of those investigations;
  • Standardized the state hospital process for reporting child abuse allegations to the Oregon State Police for investigation;
  • Set biennial reevaluation of the hospital's policy and procedure regarding abuse and reporting;
  • Eliminated physical contact with patients except under specific prescribed conditions;
  • Reduced the population of children in the state hospital by over two-thirds. Moved the children's program to the community and reduced census of adolescents from 40 to 17. Increased staff to patient ratios. More than half of the adolescents are in the custody of the Oregon Youth Authority or were committed through the judicial process.
  • Established ongoing quality improvements process for abuse investigations and frequency of reporting.
"Everyone would acknowledge that what has been reported was deplorable under any circumstances. And our responsibility is to ensure that no other patient experiences such treatment, " Weeks said. "To this end, we'll continue to review and strengthen our procedures and practices with the hospital staff and leadership."