District attorneys and law enforcement officers are asking state legislators to address the need for an improved method of dealing with criminals who suffer from mental health problems. Right now, the Oregon State Hospital is so backlogged that it will judge a person as unfit to aid in his or her defense, but not violent enough to hold. They are then turned back to their local communities.
“We’ve had 15 contacts in a two week period and the contacts were by the Tribal Police Department, the Pendleton Police Department, the Hermiston Police Department, so it was three different agencies with multiple different contacts,” Umatilla County Dan Primus said as an illustration. “It’s constantly in and out of custody for little things.”
Morrow County District Attorney Justin Nelson agrees, saying legislative action is essential.
“This system is broken,” he said. “There are people who we want to get this help. We don’t want to lock them up and throw away the key. We just want that person stabilized.”
Nelson added that the lawmakers also make it easier for family members to commit an individual who could be a harm to him or herself or others.
“They almost need to be laying on the railroad tracks with a train coming toward them before we can get a commitment, it seems like,” Nelson said.