In 1978, Oregon became the first state to create a Psychiatric Security Review Board with its primary responsibility being to protect the public, according to the Oregonian.
Oregon taxpayers are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into treating a few hundred criminally insane patients in the state hospital, thousands more sit in prison with limited mental health treatment, and thousands more live on the street with no treatment at all.
According to the Oregonian,of the 503 patients who were at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem last week, 344 have been found guilty except for insanity. Some of them are dangerous offenders, convicted of murder and rape; others are not violent. Nearly 100 have committed low-level felonies or misdemeanors, such as theft or criminal mischief, that might have gotten them probation. But because they pleaded insanity, all will stay in secure wards -- often longer than the sentences they would have served in prison.
Judges, prosecutors and attorneys have found Oregon's guilty except for insanity law a useful tool. Courts placed 63 people under the psychiatric security board's jurisdiction last year, 82 in 2009. By comparison, Connecticut, with a population slightly smaller than Oregon's, placed six people under its psychiatric board's jurisdiction in the last year, reported the Oregonian.
Why is Oregon committing at least 10 times more?
One clear difference is that Oregon courts put people who have committed misdemeanors in the state mental hospital.
Case in point, the Oregonian reported about Wayne Richards who landed in the state mental hospital in Salem after he stole a scooter from a Fred Meyer store and abandoned it in a parking lot across the street. Oregon taxpayers will spend $17,661 every month he stays there, in one of the most expensive and most secure treatment settings the state has to offer. Of course, this is not Richards first offense, he has a long rap sheet.
The tab so far? Close to $300,000, for one guy who stole a scooter.
Richards agreed to plead guilty except for insanity in August 2009 because he thought he'd get the mental health attention he couldn't find on the outside. He also admits he took the plea because he knew he'd have warm meals and a roof over his head. It is a sad state of affairs when a guy thinks he is better off in an institution than on the street.
It becomes even worse when the government pays outrageous amounts of money, $17,661 per month, to care for someone that could function on the street for a fraction of the cost. Let's say instead that Oregon gave Richards an apartment for $1,000 a month, $1,000 spending money a month, $500 for a car, $750 for food and $100 a day for psych meds and treatment, the state would still save about $11,500 a month.
Taxpayers would be outraged that an offender could be living such an opulent lifestyle in the community on the public's dime, yet it would be about a third of what the state is paying to house a mentally ill offender in a "secured" facility.
After his plea, Richards learned he would be under the jurisdiction of the Psychiatric Security Review Board for five years -- likely twice as long as he would have been in prison. If he stays there the entire time he's under the board, the bill will top $1 million, according to the Oregonian.
Richards wonders if there could have been a better option for him and for taxpayers. "It's not worth it," he told the Oregonian, "not worth it at all."
Can you imagine what Oregon's mental health system could do for people in the community with mental illness if they had the $1 million the state could spend on Richards. The real insanity in Oregon is spending all this money on the back-end after a crime has been committed rather than for treatment on the front-end before a "person" with mental illness becomes an "offender" with mental illness.
During these difficult economic times, it is hard to imagine that any government body can continue to condone such gross mismanagement of scares resources.
To read more: http://mobile.oregonlive.com/advorg/db_/contentdetail.htm;jsessionid=DC5D1B90DCD190DCDEAA96FF296A2C67?contentguid=FeQnzpRZ&full=true#display