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Third Patient Dies At Unity Center For Behavioral Health

Unity Center for Behavioral Health in Portland. | LEGACY HEALTH
August 1, 2019

Another patient has died at Portland’s only psychiatric hospital for patients in a mental health crisis.

The person, who was not identified, died Sunday at the Unity Center for Behavioral Health in Northeast Portland. Center staff reported the death to Multnomah County on Tuesday. Kate Willson, a spokesperson for the county, said the center would be required to report the death of any patients covered by Medicaid or receiving services from Multnomah County. The center would also have to report a death if there were a reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect occurred, she said.

"If there is any suspicion that the death was caused by abuse, neglect or suicide (anything other than natural causes) the county will conduct a full investigation," Willson said in a statement. "A medical examiner will ultimately determine the cause of death."

The Multnomah County Medical Examiners office said they had no further details.

Brian Terrett, lead spokesman for Legacy Health, which runs the facility, confirmed the death. “No additional steps need to be taken connected to this patient, given the specific medical cause of death,” he said in a statement.

Terrett declined to elaborate, citing health policy privacy rules. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act even protects health information even after death.

The center opened in 2017 as a collaboration among Legacy, Oregon Health & Science University, Adventist Health and Kaiser Permanente. Legacy runs the center, which is jointly funded. It was modeled after a treatment center in California. It has in-patient beds and also a large, open room with dozens of recliners where patients receive immediate care. Known as the PES, or Psychiatric Emergency Services, the space was modeled after a center in California and is designed to treat large numbers of people quickly. 

As of Thursday, Terrett said there were 25 people in the PES and 89 in-patients.

This is the third known death at Unity. Legacy already confirmed two previous deaths that happened last year. One person died in bed following delayed medical treatment and another died by hanging. Sources told The Lund Report that the woman who hanged herself had sought treatment at Unity because she was feeling suicidal.

It came under following reports of abuse and neglect. Investigators found at least one instance of sexual assault, negligence and a long list of other safety hazards. Federal authorities put the center on notice, threatening to withdraw Medicaid certification. Unity responded with a correction plan and was given a green light by the Oregon Health Authority and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

You can reach Lynne Terry at [email protected].