Lax licensing of residential treatment facilities leads to segregation, clustering in Hillsboro Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012, 1:10 PM Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012, 1:26 PMBy Special to the Hillsboro Argus By Judi Palumbo
Since the July 2010 rape of a young woman and the sexual assault of a young child by a resident of an unlicensed residential facility in downtown Hillsboro, the Hillsboro Neighborhoods Coalition has sought solutions to the proliferation of unlicensed residential treatment facilities (RTFs) in our neighborhoods.
Our research has revealed that the Luke-Dorf treatment complex on Southeast Fifth and Washington that housed and treated the rapist at the time of his crimes is an emerging statewide model for residential mental health and addiction services.
The neighborhoods were shocked to learn that the taxpayer-funded Luke-Dorf Complex that provides housing, care and treatment for 25 severely mentally ill people with co-occurring addictions, many of whom are under the supervision of Washington County Community Corrections, is unlicensed.
In response to a bill introduced by state Rep. Katie Eyre, R-Hillsboro, the Addictions and Mental Health Division estimated there are 50 sites statewide that meet requirements for licensing but are not licensed. As Oregon begins to move more mentally ill people out of the more expensive state hospital, jails and prisons and into cheaper community-based residential treatment programs, it is imperative that these facilities be licensed.
Licensing of residential facilities is an especially important issue to the Hillsboro community. The 12-block area of downtown Hillsboro has experienced a tremendous clustering of residential and outpatient services for those with psychological disabilities and drug addiction. This area currently contains a total of 332 treatment, recovery, and transitional beds, a total of 1 bed for every 37 residents.
State licensing law requires that an organization seeking to open a residential treatment facility do a market study to show proof that the facility is needed in that local community. The state also reviews whether there are other licensed residential facilities within a 1200-foot radius of the proposed facility. And as our local mental health authority, Washington County is required by state law to disperse support services for the disabled throughout the county.
These measures were instituted by the state in order to prevent the type of clustering that is occurring in downtown Hillsboro.
Service providers, aided by state and local government, are circumventing the intent of the legislature by simply not seeking licensing. The resulting clustering prevents disabled individuals from living and receiving services near family and friends, segregates people with specific disabilities, and overwhelms the community.
Licensing provides protections for clients and employees. State licensing, mandated by law for any residential facility providing care and treatment for those who are mentally ill and/or struggling with addiction, sets out minimum care and treatment standards, provides oversight and accountability, and confers whistle blower status to employees reporting safety violations. While facility licensing is the ultimate responsibility of the AMH, the local mental health authority, Washington County, is responsible for ensuring facilities pursue licensure.
City governments also have a responsibility to ensure that organizations proposing to open residential facilities within their limits, as Luke-Dorf did in Hillsboro, hold the required license. State law allows cities to request the licensing application of all proposed residential facilities prior to granting planning approval.
The Hillsboro Neighborhoods Coalition remains committed to working with the state, Washington County and the city of Hillsboro for the benefit of facility clients, employees and neighborhoods.
Judi Palumbo is vice chairman of the HNC Steering Committee.
Letter to the editor (March 12, 2012)- I was one of 20 Hillsboro Neighborhoods Coalition members who attended last Tuesday's (March 6) Hillsboro City Council meeting. The HNC was formed after the 2010 violent sexual attacks committed by a resident of the Luke-Dorf facility on Fifth and Washington. My neighbor's young child was sexually assaulted at knifepoint in their own home and I'm also the mother of a young child.