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As someone who conducted or was otherwise involved in dozens of precomittment investigations and emergency hospitalizations in rural Oregon, I am in favor of changing our civil comittment laws. Having said this, I do not believe it is the comittment laws that are the problem. Rather it is the scarcity of resoures for the mentally ill at the time of crisis that leads to the trajedies we have seen recently. It is not uncommon for there to be no avaiable hospital beds at the time of need. This has the unfortunate result of either the person is sent away with inadequate support and treatment or is incarcerated. Neither of which is acceptable and will only lead to furhter trajedy and poor treatment. Sadly, police officer's & emergency departments are all too familiar with the lack of resources for those who need involuntary treatment. As both inpatient and outpatient resources for the mentally ill dwindle (especially in rural Oregon), the burden is transferred to local emergency departments and Jails. Both are not equipped to provide for the needs of the acutely mentally ill.
Without referring to any specific case, I would like to offer my support for police officers who deal with the mentally ill. The accutely pschotic or manic individual is highly unpredictable and is rarely infulenced by reason. I have witnessed law enforcement skillfully handle several volitile situations with potentially violent individuals and averting trajedy. Their's is a difficult job with little thanks and by and large they do it very well.
This is a highly complicated issue with many aspects. We need to address whole mental health system, specifically the lack of resources in addition to the civil comittment laws in order to make changes and avoid tragedies.
Oregon lawmakers might look to Washington State for a model of civil comittment laws. Their approach strikes a balance between the rights of the individual, public safety and ensures due process.
Jim, Hood River
posted 2 years, 12 months ago
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