Oregon Department of Human Services Director's Message
Jan. 14, 2011 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS and OHA employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., Director

New beginnings for mental health treatment in Oregon

"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."
~Martin Luther King Jr.

As we know, a new year can bring a fresh start.

For many Oregonians living with mental illness, the New Year is also bringing a new home.

Across the state, work is happening in local communities to ensure that people have the best care and residence to help them recover and live as independently as possible. At the forefront is an initiative launched by the Addictions and Mental Health Division last fall. Because of the work we have done with our community partners since last September, approximately 200 Oregonians have moved into less-restrictive facilities, homes or independent living situations that are better suited to their actual needs. In 2011, we expect about 130 more people to make similar moves.

This is the kind of innovative community care and partnership that is going to help make life better for the people we serve and ensure that our public dollars are spent for the right care in the right place at the right time. Getting people the mental health care they need in their local community as early as possible is a priority.

At the same time, people will at times need hospital care. At our Oregon State Hospital Salem campus this week, we hit a milestone marker for our new hospital, which is on its way to becoming a place of hope and recovery for people who need a higher level of short- or long-term care than can be provided in the community.

Patients began moving into the new residential wing Monday. This marks the next step of the new era as patients begin leaving behind inadequate and frankly decrepit facilities that focused on warehousing people, not treating them.

I echo the sentiment that OSH Superintendent Greg Roberts shared when patients and staff gathered together on Monday: "This is a historic moment, one we'll remember for the rest of our lives."

In this new wing -- called "Harbors," each patient will have her or his own room, compared to some units in the old building where patients had to share a room with sometimes up to four other people.

"I love all of the space," says one OSH patient. "I need room to be able to walk around, and now I have a room to myself, and there's lots of room on the unit to pace. This will be a lot better."

The increase in space is just one of the many improvements of the new hospital over the old. There is also a new treatment mall, where patients will spend their days attending group sessions and participating in other therapeutic activities.

With 114,300 square feet, Harbors has five units located on three floors. As construction progresses, new parts of the hospital will continue to open in phases. When complete, the new hospital will be 850,000 square feet and house up to 620 patients from around the state.

I want to thank all the OSH staff who made sure that this move went smoothly for patients and recognize their continued daily work toward improving the state hospital as it transforms into a home of recovery for its patients. Thanks also to the AMH team that has been working so diligently to move people into the best level of care in their communities.

Right care, right place, right time. That's a great way to start the New Year. And as we are reflecting on the legacy of Dr. King this weekend, we remember how he often talked about how justice delayed is justice denied. That reminds us to continue bringing a sense of urgency to our work so no one is denied the home she or he needs.

DHS on the web