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July 20, 2006


Contact: Ann Snyder, 503-945-5922


Process for replacing Oregon's aging state mental hospital kicks off with first site selection criteria hearing

SALEM -- The joint legislative committee appointed to develop site selection criteria for locating Oregon's new state mental hospitals held its first meeting this week, during which a variety of proposed criteria were presented by speakers representing the mental health community, care providers, architects and state facilities experts.

The committee is an integral part of an effort to restructure Oregon's mental health system, focusing on the task of replacing the existing state hospital in Salem with a minimum of four new facilities -- one 620-bed facility in the North Willamette Valley region, one 360-bed facility south of Linn County on the west side of the Cascades, and at least two non-hospital-level 16-bed secure residential treatment settings east of the Cascades. The anticipated construction costs are $324 million to $334 million.

Underlying all other criteria is the need to place hospitals near the populations they serve, noted Oregon Department of Human Services Director Bruce Goldberg, M.D., who is chairing the committee.

"One of the benefits of this approach is that it moves Oregon toward a more community-based mental health care system that places facilities near where patients and their families live," said Goldberg.

"The types of hospital beds available in Oregon's mental health treatment system don't match the needs in all areas of the state," said Cecily Lohmar, a consultant with New Heights, a behavioral health firm, during her testimony. "Distribution of the beds, especially extended residential beds, needs to be consistent with the population. We need to provide care to people as much as possible within the communities where they live."

Specifying the criteria that will determine those locations was at the heart of the recommendations that emerged during the nearly six hours of testimony and discussion at the committee hearing.

Some of the proposed criteria included:

  • The ability of the facility to support a consumer-centered treatment model focused on patient recovery;
  • The amount of land needed to hold each of the facilities;
  • The transportation infrastructure needed to support the expected traffic to and from the facilities;
  • Access to sufficient utility supplies;
  • Access to a large pool of qualified mental health professionals; and 
  • Local amenities for staff such as good schools, police and fire services, recreation opportunities, and access to other services.

Land requirements include at least 100 acres for the 620-bed facility, approximately 75-80 acres for the 360-bed facility, and from one to five acres each for the two 16-bed facilities, according to Jim Mueller, a principal with KMD Architects, the company hired by the Governor and Legislature to evaluate the Oregon State Hospital and recommend methods for improving the state's overall mental health treatment system.

While the exact number of employees needed to staff each of the new facilities is undetermined, the current Salem campus has 613 beds supported by approximately 1,000 employees.

The sizes of the proposed facilities -- scheduled for completion in 2011 -- are designed to meet the anticipated level of need through 2021, noted Mueller, who added that planning for a 10-year carrying capacity during construction of hospital facilities is a customary process.

In recognition that the two larger facilities will have significantly more complex site selection issues, the committee will focus its efforts on determining the criteria for those facilities. At the same time, DHS will designate a workgroup to focus on the needs of central and eastern Oregon, and to determine site selection criteria for locating the facilities needed east of the Cascades.

That workgroup is tentatively scheduled to hold its first meeting Aug. 23 in Bend. Its focus will include taking a second look at the population projections for central and eastern Oregon to determine the areas most likely to need the new facilities, and evaluating whether two facilities are sufficient or more might be needed.

Monday's meeting of the full Site Selection Criteria Committee was the first of three planned hearings. The next two are planned for Aug. 1 and Aug. 29. The committee then will provide the agreed-upon criteria to the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, which will present the Governor and lawmakers a list of suitable sites for consideration. Final decisions about the facilities' location, design and financing will be made by the close of the 2007 legislative session, once public input has been received and evaluated.

Chairing the committee is DHS Director Bruce Goldberg, M.D. Additional committee members are DAS Director Lindsay Ball, Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem/Gervais/Woodburn), Senator Avel Gordly (D-Portland), Senator Laurie Monnes-Anderson (D-Gresham), Senator David Nelson (R-Pendleton), Senator Jackie Winters (R-Salem), Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha), Rep. Debbie Boone (D-Cannon Beach), Representative Billy Dalto (R-Salem), Rep. Bruce Hanna (R-Cottage Grove), and Rep. Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton).