The union representing workers at Cascadia Health says its members were raising concerns about their safety on the job, well before a mental health aide was killed at work over the weekend.
Haley Rogers died while working an overnight shift by herself at a small residential treatment facility owned and operated by Cascadia in Gresham. A client, James Smith, has pleaded not guilty to murder charges.
Rogers was a member of Oregon AFSCME Local 1790, which has been negotiating a new contract with Cascadia Health since May.
Liz O’Connor, a Cascadia employee and a bargaining unit representative, says they surveyed their members this year.
“The number one thing that people asked to talk about and review in our contract was safety,” she said.
O’Connor says several issues that directly relate to the apparent circumstances of Rogers’ death have been part of the negotiations.
Those include how to enforce a no-weapons policy while allowing clients some degree of privacy, the potential for staff to wear alarms that trigger a call for outside help and ending or limiting the practice of having overnight staff work solo shifts.
“The lower the staffing, the more risk there is,” O’Connor said.
A spokesperson for Cascadia Health, Stephanie Tripp, said the safety of employees and clients is a top priority.
“We are dedicated to fostering a culture of safety within our organization and will continue to do so,” she wrote.