Lawsuit against the state of Oregon highlights the need for more - KPTV - FOX 12

Lawsuit against the state of Oregon highlights the need for more mental health treatment

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A local shortage of mental health treatment is at the center of a lawsuit against the state of Oregon.

Earlier this year, the Oregon Health Authority, which regulates mental health services, found Willamette Valley Behavioral Health failed to justify the need for a new, 100-bed treatment facility in Wilsonville.

The company, a subsidiary of Universal Health Services, has appealed OHA’s decision, and filed a lawsuit in Marion County to force the agency to release public records associated with the denial.

Jason Conger, an attorney with Lynch, Conger, and McLane who represents the company said OHA has not been responsive to public records requests.

“The vast bulk of what we requested was not provided,” said Conger.

Additionally, Conger said, OHA estimated the cost of fulfilling the records request at more than $50,000.

On the front lines of the mental health crisis, meanwhile, staff attempting to serve those in need say the demand for treatment is by far outstripping the available supply of treatment beds.

“We’ve deflected between, it ranges, but between 60 and 160 patients on a monthly basis who need inpatient care,” said Libby Hutter, CEO of Cedar Hills Hospital, which is also owned by Universal Health Services.

Under Oregon law, companies interested in building new health care facilities are required to qualify for a Certificate of Need, a process governed by the OHA.

Among the reasons cited by OHA for denying the proposed Wilsonville facility’s Certificate of Need was that building a new hospital could have a negative financial impact on other providers.

The opening of the Unity Center for Behavioral Health in northeast Portland earlier this year added 100 inpatient beds in the heart of Portland, but Mario Bolivar, Director of the Military Program at Cedar Hills Hospital, believes there is still a glaring need.

“The thing that we worry about is those individuals that need a bed today, but they have to wait. And the waiting time for some of those can be so critical. You’ve seen the suicide rate in the state for veterans. 23 percent. That’s what we don’t want to see,” said Bolivar.

Representatives with the Oregon Health Authority could not comment specifically on the lawsuit.

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