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Patient Advocates Want Federal Order On State Hospital

Oregon state officials say they're not waiting for a new director to step in before enacting what they call “aggressive” reforms at the Oregon State Hospital.

But patient advocates are skeptical. They want federal intervention at the troubled mental institution in Salem.

Last October, a mental patient named Moises Perez died at the Oregon State Hospital. An investigation last week did not blame his death specifically on hospital staff.

But it said the Salem psychiatric facility neglected Perez by failing to give him adequate medical care. Bruce Goldberg heads Oregon's Department of Human Services.

He said in response he asked Hospital Superintendent Roy Orr to resign. “We've made some good changes over the last couple of years. But the pace of change has slowed down. It needs to be quicker and this is of the utmost importance," he said.

Federal civil rights investigators have been looking into conditions at the Oregon State Hospital. Bob Joondeph is with the group Disability Rights Oregon. He wants Goldberg to agree to a court order with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“So that if they fall behind, there would be a way to enforce that agreement," he said.

Goldberg says the state doesn't need a federal court order. He says his agency plans to hire a new superintendent “as soon as possible.”

While that search begins, Goldberg says the agency is already making recommended changes in patient care.