Legal case in Oregon alleges the state is not making enough beds available for mental health crises.
Across the country, it’s difficult for people in need of mental health care to get the attention they require in a timely manner. Good care that is available when needed can go a long way towards helping individuals work through the issues they are facing and get on a path toward wellbeing. Unfortunately, without such services available, it becomes difficult for those individuals to find a way forward. A group of Oregon’s hospitals is mounting a legal challenge against the state to fight for more access to mental health care for residents. While the results of this potential legal action are yet to be seen, this story does shine a light on the importance of mental health care, in general, and how it is often underfunded and under supported in the current landscape.
At the heart of Oregon’s legal case is the allegation by the hospital groups that the state is not making enough mental health beds available for those who need them, even in emergency situations. Without availability of these individuals in facilities operated by the Oregon Health Authority, those patients landed in medical hospitals, which were not properly equipped to provide the type of care that was needed.
This legal challenge was brought previously but was dismissed by the judge in that case. The decision to dismiss the case was based on a change in criteria for admitting civilly committed patients to medical hospitals. However, the hospitals still believe that their complaint has merit, so they are bringing it back in front of the courts for another try. Their core argument is that they are not able to offer the long-term mental health treatment that specific patients need, meaning the hospitals resources are diverted from what they do best, and the patients don’t wind up getting the level of care that they need and deserve.
There are simply not many facilities available to Oregon’s residents in need 0f mental health care. Looking to the north, the state of Washington has gone through a similar process with the hospitals complaining about a lack of support from state facilities. On that occasion, it was the state that came up on the losing end, and changes to the rules were required that demanded the immediate evaluation and treatment of patients with behavioral health conditions.
As the problems with mental health across the country only continue to grow, more and more of these legal battles are sure to pop up. Who is going to provide the care needed to people facing mental health issues, and who will pay for that care? Those are big questions with no easy answers. The situation discussed above in Oregon is only a small sample of what is happening in many different states, and with any luck, mental health care in the U.S. will look a lot different – and a lot better – in the coming years.