Oregon is known as a place where advances in the medical field are prominent and ever-evolving. One area that Oregon takes particular pride in is the state’s treatment of those who live with mental health disorders and have committed crimes.

The Oregon State Hospital, located in Salem, is the oldest operating psychiatric hospital in Oregon and one of the oldest operating psychiatric hospitals along the West Coast. Though it’s expensive to care for a patient at the hospital, the recidivism rate for those released from the hospital is an astronomically low 0.47 percent. This is much lower than the recidivism rate of 18 percent for all Oregon ex-inmates, whether mentally ill or not.

With 14 percent of state and federal prisoners having serious mental illnesses, prison officials simply don’t have the resources needed to treat those prisoners. This causes prisoners to get worse over time as they spend more time behind bars.

The Psychiatric Security Review Board in Oregon takes charge of the care for the criminally insane from the moment they received the verdict of “guilty except for insanity” until they become discharged from state care. During that time, the board will supervise the treatment plan for a person and determine when they are ready to be moved to a less secure facility and finally to conditional release.

In Oregon, the conditional release includes not only clinical treatment but housing and assistance with helping the patient find a job, transportation, how to budget, and even how to grocery shop. Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare serves as a major cheerleader and treatment facility for those released on conditional release. They provide outpatient mental health care to approximately 18,000 people a year in the Portland area.

The Psychiatric Review Board of Oregon has ten members who sit in groups of three for hearings pertaining to conditional releases or discharges. Patients who are hospitalized or on conditional release can ask for a change in their patient status once every six months. The board then considers the mental state of the patient, the gravitas of the crime they committed, and what impending risk presents if the patient is to be released.

If a patient is released or discharged, they have a program for clinical treatment that is most times done at a Cascadia facility called the Hope Center. These patients are required to participate in at least 20 hours of structured activity per week. This can be anything like school, volunteering, or work. All the while, a treatment team is monitoring each patient’s progress.

Through these efforts, Oregon has been able to lower the recidivism rate of its criminally insane patients and help improve their lives while maintaining the safety of the community.