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We are now just 22 days from Election Day. Although every election has its share of important decisions, this year's choices will have a profound impact on our lives.
Last month the state of Oregon announced that it will be releasing patients from the state hospital based on strict court ordered timelines regardless of whether the patients are able to stand trial for their crimes. This is a serious threat to the safety of our community.
When a person is arrested for a serious crime in Oregon but their mental illness prevents them from understanding the court proceeding against them they are considered unable to aid and assist in their own defense. In this instance, it would violate their 6th Amendment Right to a fair trial for the proceeding to continue.
As a result, after a psychiatric evaluation, the judge will order the individual to the state hospital so that the individual can be restored to competency to stand trial. State law says that this can be for up to 1 year for a misdemeanor crime or 3 years for a felony crime. However the vast majority of individuals are restored to competency and able to stand trial after only a few months.
The outcome of this process is that after treatment, the accused individual is determined by the state hospital to be rehabilitated and able to stand trial, or after all treatment is exhausted, is determined by the state hospital to never be able to stand trial, in which case, the DA can pursue civil commitment proceedings.
However, based on a Federal Court decision that the Oregon Health Authority didn't contest, the OHA has suggested that it will be releasing individuals from the state hospital who are not competent to stand trial without any treatment plan or support for these individuals.
What makes this even worse is that these individuals are sent to the State Hospital in Marion County from every county in the state. So if they are released and unable to stand trial, the DA from their county can drop the charges leaving those individuals on the streets of Salem. This just recently happened with an individual from Lane County and it is outrageous!
Most of these individuals sent to the state hospital under 'aid and assist' are accused of very serious crimes, including assault, murder, and rape. At a time when our communities have already been struggling with substance abuse and mental health problems on our streets, OHA is about to make it worse.
If the state moves forward this way, we will see 120 dangerous individuals from all over Oregon released on the streets of Salem.
The purported reason the State Hospital is walking away from its responsibility and trying to push it on our communities is because of staffing difficulties that all hospitals are facing right now. However the state's all funds budget is $112.79 Billion this biennium. The state of Oregon currently has the most money it has ever had in its history and it is not even close. The governor could triple the starting salaries of every single employee at the state hospital and not even make a dent in the overall budget. But ideologues at OHA and on the far left believe that it makes more sense for dangerous mentally ill individuals to be on our streets then getting treatment at the state hospital and facing the charges against them in court. This backward thinking is one of the reasons why we have a homeless crisis across our state.
This is just one more example of why the elections this year are so important. And why I hope you will join me in making phone calls to voters starting next week. I will be teaming up with Kevin Mannix and Tracy Cramer who are both running for State Representative in Marion County and Kim Thatcher who is running for State Senator.
We will be meeting next Tuesday October 25th from 5-7pm at 660 Capitol Street NE in Salem. I hope to see you there!
I also humbly ask for your vote when you get your ballot next week.