Colm Willis

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Friends,

Several months ago, I told you about a decision by a federal judge and the Oregon Health Authority that created a significant public safety risk to our community. We were facing the prospect of 120 individuals, credibly accused of crimes, being release from the State Hospital into Marion County even though they are not mentally stable. Unfortunately, this decision is being implemented and OHA is releasing these individuals.

When this first came to my attention last year, I met with then Director of OHA Pat Allen and asked if there was any way we could implement some sort of risk scoring method where those individuals that we could not safely house in our community would remain in a medical facility with OHA until they were rehabilitated to stand trial. After several failed meetings and empty promises, it was clear that OHA had no intention of helping us keep our community safe in this way.

What is so infuriating about this situation is that our tax dollars are already paying for a system to enable these individuals to be rehabilitated so that they can stand trial for their crimes. The Oregon Health Authority's budget for the last biennium was nearly $30 billion dollars (yes, that is billion with a "B"). And, almost all of the so-called "aid and assist" defendants in the current system are rehabilitated and able to stand trial through the state hospital within 3 years. Despite this, OHA is dumping the risk and cost of caring for these individuals on our communities, but OHA is keeping our tax money.

Instead of building more hospital beds, or more accurately in this case, increasing personnel to staff the hospital beds that are currently vacant, so that none of these individuals have to spend more than a week in jail, OHA conveniently chose not to defend itself in a recent federal court case and agreed with the plaintiffs in the case to hire an outside "expert" who would advise the court. This so called expert, who is from Michigan, not Oregon, advised the court that the only good way to admit more patients into the state hospital faster was to forcibly release patients from the state hospital regardless of whether or not they were well enough to stand trial. And now OHA has a court order that they are hiding behind to implement this policy.

Despite OHA's argument that secure residential facilities are the answer to the problem, there are no secure residential facilities in the state that will currently accept patients who are accused of violent Ballot Measure 11 offenses. And, none of the secure facilities that the state recently funded will be operational for at least two years. OHA knew this when they threw the case in federal court.

Here in Marion County we are looking at a few individuals being released into our community this spring who have been accused of committing horrible crimes. One person is charged with trying to burn his family alive in their home. Another person is accused of stalking a stranger, breaking into her house and raping her. One patient is accused of attempted homicide. If these individual are allowed to be released into the community and their cases are dismissed as a result of this terrible decision, we could have rapists and attempted murderers going free after 12 months in the state hospital. Defense attorneys across the state are already filing to dismiss charges for individuals released from the State Hospital under the Mosman order. It is an absolute travesty. You can read about one of the cases here. It is literally unbelievable.

This is the first real test of Governor Kotek's administration. Let's hope that she has the courage to stand up to the bullies at OHA and do what is right for our community.

View from top of Detroit Dam

Two weeks ago, I attended the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers listening session in Stayton to hear about the Corps' plans for Detroit Lake. The Army Corps is doing an environmental review relating to a project to provide downstream juvenile fish passage past the Detroit Dam. I was there to get confirmation that they are not planning on draining Detroit Lake as a part of this project. Representatives from the Army Corps assured me that their plan does not include draining the lake. While this is reassuring, I encourage you to give your own feedback about how important Detroit Lake is to you.

You can see their presentation and submit your own written comments here.

Finally, I want to invite you to attend this year's March for Life next Saturday January 28th at 2:15pm at the Oregon State Capitol. This is the first March for Life, since the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision and our very own Commissioner Danielle Bethell will be speaking! It will be a great opportunity to stand up for the dignity of every person in our community. I hope you can make it!

Oregon March for Life

It is an honor to serve as your county commissioner.

God bless,

-- Colm

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