Psychiatric Emergency Clinics Must be Safe Places

Psychiatric emergency clinics need to be safe places. This is critical for both the patients who receive care for mental health conditions and the clinical staff who administer the health care.

Guns have no place in a clinical environment.

Disability Rights Oregon is committed to removing barriers to accessing psychiatric emergency services. Ensuring that guns stay outside the clinics doors is an important part of lifting barriers to care.

Unity Center for Behavioral Health

Portland’s Unity Center for Behavioral Health is a critical community resource for people experiencing behavioral health crisis. It’s one of only a few settings in Portland that provides inpatient psychiatric care.

Unity prohibits guns. This affords patients and staff the best, safest clinical environment possible.

On May 24, Disability Rights Oregon sent a letter to Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese asking him to abide by Unity’s no-gun policy.

Letter Text:

Dear Sheriff Reese,

I’ve heard through a few channels about ongoing conversations between the Sheriff’s Office and Unity regarding access to Unity when an inmate decompensates or is otherwise facing behavioral health crisis at the jail.

As you know, psychiatric decompensation is a medical emergency that requires hospital level care, which cannot be provided in the jail.  If it’s feasible to release the person from custody and facilitate transfer to a hospital, that’s the best outcome.  But, sometimes it’s not possible to release the person from custody.

If a person requires medical care that the jail cannot provide and cannot be released from custody, the Sheriff’s office must work collaboratively with hospitals to facilitate accessing necessary medical care while remaining in custody.

For our psychiatric emergency services to be effective, they need to be offered in safe places where patients receive appropriate care for their mental health conditions and clinical staff are able to oversee their care and address any behavioral escalation with clinical tools. Unity was designed and equipped to provide high quality behavioral health care. It’s a critical community resource for people experiencing behavioral health crisis.

Given the fact that other hospitals closed inpatient units to create Unity, Unity is now one of only a few settings in Portland that provides inpatient psychiatric care. As part of providing the best, safest clinical environment possible for patients and staff, Unity prohibits guns.

Guns have no place in a clinical environment. Local tragedies point to the lethal consequences of guns in hospitals, including the death of Jose Santos Victor Mejia Poot in 2001, and John Martin, just last week in Vancouver.

We urge your office to use the Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES) at Unity as a resource for people in behavioral health crisis who are in jail custody.

To keep staff and patients at Unity safe, we ask the Sheriff to abide by Unity’s no-gun policy. We strongly urge the Sheriff’s office to compromise with Unity by agreeing a) to check guns at a lock box by the door or b) to station deputies outside the door to the clinical care area.  Failing to compromise would leave individuals in your care and custody with very limited chances of accessing critically needed medical care.

I am happy to discuss these concerns further with you or your staff.

Best,

Sarah Radcliffe

PAIMI Managing Attorney

Disability Rights Oregon

610 SW Broadway Suite 200

Portland , Oregon 97205

 

 

 

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