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Oregon To Close Adolescent Ward At Psych Hospital
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 31, 2005

SALEM, OREGON--Ward 40, the adolescent unit at Oregon State Hospital, will be closed by the first of March and its 16 patients will be moved into smaller settings or discharged the Portland Oregonian reported Thursday.

The Oregon Department of Human Services made the announcement after a panel found significant problems with abuse-reporting procedures, incomplete communication between state agencies and inadequate training of facility staff in the unit that houses youths with mental illnesses ranging from age 12 to 18.

Twelve of the patients will be transferred to a smaller community facility near Corvallis. The others will be moved to private programs or be discharged.

The closure comes less than six months after the Oregonian reported that as many as a dozen young people with mental illness were abused while housed at Ward 40 between 1989 and 1994. The two-part series published in September and based on police reports, court records, and interviews with former employees and patients, revealed a pattern of abuse and intimidation at the facility. The paper reported that the institution had private places where patients could be abused in seclusion, employees with histories of sexual assault, and staff members who failed to immediately call police or child protective officials when abuse was suspected or discovered. Young victims were often blamed for the abuse, while whistle-blowers who reported the crimes were removed. The state paid victims more than $1 million to keep them from telling their stories to the media, the Oregonian reported.

"I'm ecstatic about the closure," said Mary Kay Gonzales, 30, who was molested by two psychiatric aides during the time she was held at Ward 40.

"I'm so relieved to know that no one else will have to live through what I did there," she said Wednesday.

A Senate committee is looking into other problems at the 121-year-old Oregon State Hospital which currently houses more than 740 people. Senate President Peter Courtney said that the closure of Ward 40 may be a sign of things to come.

"State will shut youth ward of hospital" (The Oregonian)
"Sexual Abuse Of Youngsters At State Hospital Revealed" (Inclusion Daily Express -- September 21, 2004)


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