New Contempt Ruling Lodged Against Oregon State Hospital

Oregon State Hospital in Salem by Ben Botkin TLR WEB.jpg

The state of Oregon has racked up daily fines after yet another contempt of court ruling for not admitting someone for treatment at the Oregon State Hospital.

On Nov. 12, citing a 130-day delay in getting treatment for defendant Kevin DeWitt O’Neil, longtime Tillamook County Circuit Judge Mari Garric Trevino ordered the Oregon State Hospital to admit him for treatment by Nov. 19, or pay $500 a day.

It’s the latest ruling in a string of similar contempt orders, even as the state has continued to argue that low staffing and a shortage of available beds have combined with a federal court ruling to give it little choice.

O’Neil was indicted on Aug. 28 for second-degree assault, using a dangerous weapon. On June 30, Trevino found him Guilty Except for Insanity — referred to later in the ruling as “GEI “— and ordered him admitted to the state hospital “without unreasonable delay.”

The state hospital did not admit O’Neill, and in an Oct. 21 trial memo, a Department of Justice attorney argued that “Mr. O’Neil has not been admitted to OSH, because OSH does not presently have enough beds to safely or lawfully admit him. If OSH were able to safely or lawfully admit Mr. O’Neil, he would already be in the hospital.”

As other Oregon judges had previously, Trevino also disagreed with the state’s reasoning and instead sided with O’Neil’s defense lawyer, Kayla Long, in finding the state in contempt for allowing him to remain in jail without any treatment.

The judge noted testimony from the state indicating that new beds in the state hospital’s Junction City facility would be used to house GEI prisoners starting on Nov. 15. “At the time of the hearing on this case there were 28 GEI defendants waiting for admission to the OSH and Mr. O’Neill was 16th on this list. No GEI defendants have been admitted to the (the state hospital) at all in 2021.”

Trevino also cited the state’s failure to evaluate O’Neill remotely in the intervening months, noting state’s testimony that it was not the hospital‘s responsibility to evaluate people before they are actually admitted to the hospital. “This response is not supported by statute,” Trevino wrote.

The judge rejected as false the state’s claim that a federal ruling required it to admit aid-and-assist patients — those deemed by a judge as needing treatment before being able to assist in their own defense — before GEI patients.

As of the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 23, O’Neil was still in jail, according to the Tillamook County Correctional Facility.

The judge’s order requires the state to make its payments “payable to the Tillamook County Sheriff's Office to be used for services for inmates with behavioral health challenges,” according to the judge’s order.

You can reach Nick Budnick at [email protected] or @NickBudnick on Twitter.

Correction: An earlier version of this story provided an incorrect name for the attorney who secured the contempt finding. The Lund Report regrets the error.

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