Linn, Marion to propose OSH changes

Commissioners Roger Nyquist, Sherrie Sprenger and Will Tucker agreed Tuesday morning, May 30, that Linn County would join Marion County to request changes regarding how long criminal defendants can be held at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem.

Last September, a federal judge ruled that defendants could not be housed at the hospital for more than one year. This decision also meant that those with misdemeanor charges couldn’t stay, either, as those services had to be provided at the county level.

According to a letter to Gov. Tina Kotek and David Baden, interim director of the Oregon Health Authority, Marion County commissioners Colm Willis, Kevin Cameron and Danielle Bethell contend that decision “essentially ended all civil commitments to the state hospital and has left more individuals with untreated behavioral health needs requiring a hospital level of care in our communities.”

Nyquist said the state was failing to adequately operate a state mental hospital that met statewide needs. He added that mental health issues were a key factor in homelessness, and that the state must add capacity to meet those needs.

Sprenger, who previously served as a state representative, said reducing the number of beds at the hospital has been a legislative policy statement for several years.

The counties are asking:

♦ That someone posing a community risk be admitted to the state hospital;

♦ That the state craft a long-term plan to provide secure in-patient services to meet the anticipated need for the next 20 years;

♦ That the state be required to modify its expedited admissions policy so that more individuals can be admitted through the civil commitment process, and to retain liability for individuals on community restoration if, under state law, they would have been released from the state hospital;

♦ For a limit to the amount of time someone can remain in community restoration;

♦ For a “safety valve” to allow for longer state-hospital stays if a trial court determines that a person presents significant public safety issues; and

♦ That the state accept individuals charged with misdemeanor crimes.

In other business, the commissioners:

♦ Approved an agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation to provide funding not to exceed $543,683 for the biennium to support the Senior Citizens of Sweet Home/Linn Shuttle/Dial-a-Bus program.

♦ Approved a temporary part-time employment agreement with Sgt. Brad Kelley, to operate the Linn County Sheriff’s Office’s firearms range after his May 31 retirement. He had been a firearms instructor for 20 years and a rangemaster for five.

♦ Approved continuation of an employment contract with Sgt. Dusty Frenzel to work as a patrol sergeant through June 30, 2024. His current contract expires June 30.

♦ Approved a closure of Brownsville’s Main Street for the June 16-17 Pioneer Picnic, and approved a $68,362 paving contract with North Santiam Paving with the Albany Maintenance District. Roadmaster Wayne Mink said paving holds up better than chip sealing at intersections where heavy farm equipment is common.

♦ Approved end-of-the-year fund transfers for the Linn County Sheriff’s Office at $205,000; Veterans Services, $2,000 from the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs; Linn County Expo Center, $180,000 for materials and services.

♦ Approved an agreement for the Community Wildfire Risk Reduction Program to be implemented by the Linn County Juvenile work crews as part of the Fuels Reduction Program. The department has received a Forest Service grant for the following: $36,874 for a wood chipper; $54,000 for youth wages; $10,240 for a dump trailer.

♦ Approved a $137,581 contract with Garten Services for janitorial services in all county buildings save the courthouse and former armory.

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer