Review board to notify proper authorities when patient released from state hospital

SALEM — Oregon's Psychiatric Security Review Board has agreed to send notification letters to the appropriate sheriff and police chief every time a person is conditionally released from the Oregon State Hospital to a community facility.

The new policy was prompted by an uproar in the Washington County city of Cornelius. Neighbors there learned in late December that people found "guilty except for insanity" had been living in a nearby house since the summer and were angry that they hadn't been notified sooner.

Cornelius' secure residential treatment facility is one of four operating in the state, including others in Umatilla, Woodburn and Jackson County. Three others are slated for Pendleton, Douglas County and Clackamas County, and three more are planned, with no locations determined yet.

The Hazel Center has operated at 1915 Hazel Street near Table Rock Road in Medford since 2005. It moved there after a furor in Ashland over a projected treatment center there erupted in June 2004.

The Medford facility typically houses about a dozen mentally ill criminals. It is managed by Jackson County Health and Human Services.

Before the policy change, the judge, the victim, the district attorney who prosecuted the case and the state's attorney general were notified of these conditional releases, said Mary Claire Buckley, executive director of the review board.

In Cornelius, police Chief Paul Rubenstein and Washington County Sheriff Rob Gordon learned of the criminally insane residents shortly after the treatment facility opened in August because of an alert from District Attorney Bob Hermann.

But Gordon and Rubenstein did not immediately notify neighbors because they were trying to work with facility staff to ensure appropriate safety measures.

Gordon eventually decided community members should know about their new neighbors.

Three sex offenders were among the residents, prompting Gordon to issue a community notification to 1,300 nearby residents Dec. 28. Hundreds of neighbors gathered at a meeting called by Gordon in January to protest the home.

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