In the Statesman Journal on Sunday was an article about people living in squalor in a Salem room and board home for folks with mental illness. Where is the OVERSITE?
From the Journal...
State's community care plan isn't working
But prospects for reform to help mentally ill look grim
November 18, 2008
Oregon's plan to deinstitutionalize care for people with mental illness has never worked as intended. The latest example is Harmony Manor, the squalid room-and-board facility that was profiled Sunday in the Statesman Journal.
Home to at least 22 mentally disabled people, the house on 14th Street NE appears filthy, tense and (when a reporter visited) cold. Some people suffer from mental illnesses so disabling that they stay in bed, refuse to bathe for long periods or misuse medications.
Julieta Lacandazo, who bought the home in September, seems well-intentioned. She says she has started making improvements such as replacing carpeting and hiring a half-time cook. She holds weekly house meetings to discuss issues such as what food residents would like.
But what she really needs is more frequent visits by county caseworkers to her clients with mental illness. She can't force her renters to take showers, change their beds or otherwise cope with daily life. However, trained professionals, checking regularly to see that clients are taking their medications, could make a big difference in tenants' ability to cope with communal life.
The state should do more to ensure that taxpayers get their money's worth from the nearly $11,000 of Social Security disability payments that tenants pay the owner each month for their housing and meals. There's no state oversight to determine whether the money is spent fairly — just a registration program so the state knows where the room-and-board homes are. That seems like a recipe for abuse.
The prospects for either reform aren't good. Marion County's mental-health workers already handle case management for 80 or more clients apiece. The department can't take on more responsibility without additional state money, said Marybeth Beall, a county behavioral health director.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, the Legislature's champion for causes involving mental illness, said Monday that he could make no promises regarding better case management or even better state oversight. The rising unemployment rate and the worsening revenue prospects are too grave.
The sorry thing about Harmony Manor is that this is not as bad as it gets for people with mental illness. If people can't make it in places like this, they become homeless — trying to survive in the outer reaches of our area's parks. Then, along with filth, cold and tension, they'll have to deal with rain, crime and police sweeps.
This is not the rosy picture of "community care" that was promised when Oregon closed some of its institutions. It's an embarrassment to Oregonians.