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County scouts mental health beds

Goal is to provide help for 'subacute' patients outside emergency room

Multnomah County mental health leaders are trying again to create what they term a 'subacute' facility for patients who would otherwise end up in emergency rooms or on the streets.

Although the idea is still in initial planning stages, the facility probably would accommodate 12 to 14 psychiatric patients at a time who could stay for several hours or several days, says Dr. Peter Davidson, head of the county's mental health program.

Subacute patients are those who need immediate care but not necessarily hospitalization.

The facility would be family-friendly, include peer counselors as well as clinical staff, and would be a dropping-off point for the county's mobile outreach workers and police. It would serve much the same role as the former Providence Crisis Triage Center, Davidson said.

That center closed two summers ago when the county ended a contract to direct mental health funding into different initiatives. Since then, county leaders have been searching for a place to add 12 or so subacute beds to the system.

Contract negotiations with Woodland Park Hospital to provide 10 beds for psychiatric patients failed after inspectors cited six safety hazards there in September 2001. The hospital corrected those problems. However, it then received 16 allegations last month, also related to patient and staff safety, and the county suspended admissions there.

Woodland Park officials responded to the latest allegations in writing on Tuesday. Jim McLeod, manager of quality assurance and quality certification for the state Office of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said Thursday that the hospital is back in compliance.

'It appears they have completed the required actions,' he said. 'They did submit documents to support and verify it as was required in the report. We'll probably do a follow-up in the not-so-distant future.'

Davidson said he has received approval from the county chairwoman's office to aggressively pursue the new plan for a county-sponsored facility, which he says could become a reality within months.

'I want to create the county's own system that's operated in-house to end this almost perpetual discontinuity between the outpatient clinical services that we have tremendous control over, to the inpatient services, where we have almost no idea what goes on' because of confidentiality issues, he said.

The siting process for the$3 million to $4 million project is under way, Davidson said. It would be funded through the county's existing acute-care budget and funds that would otherwise be spent on hospitalizing patients for $700 per day.

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