A Eugene-based secure residential treatment center for the mentally ill was closed Monday after state officials suspended its license. The patients were taken to other facilities.
The ShelterCare Heeran Center Residence on Coburg Road housed 12 adults who required “high levels of psychiatric treatment.”
The license suspension comes after the State of Oregon found ShelterCare to be in violation of the law. The Oregon Health Authority, Addictions and Mental Health Division documented unsafe conditions for patients. One resident was left unsupervised outside and escaped through a fence. The state says it was the third time the resident had eloped from the Heeran Center in less than five months. Other violations include improperly documenting medications and when they were given. On multiple occasions, medications were given to the wrong person. The state also contends there were hazardous items in reach of the psychiatric patients including a meat grinder, fish hooks, cigarette lighters, a power drill and hot glue gun.
ShelterCare’s Executive Director Susan Ban says they’ve been working with the state since last October to meet expectations around these issues.
Susan Ban: “They state that Heeran Center was unsafe, it wasn’t safe for the residents and I profoundly disagree with that. I think it was a very safe environment. And when they identified things we addressed them immediately and put protocols in place that would address them.”
Ban says ShelterCare will not appeal the state’s decision to suspend the mental health facility’s license. She says it will be shuttered because it will cost too much to operate it while bringing in no revenue during what would likely be a lengthy appeal process. 24 staff members have been laid off and can apply for openings at other ShelterCare programs.
Dr. Pam Martin is the Director of the Addictions and Mental Health Division of the Oregon Health Authority. She says suspending the Heeran Center’s license is not final. And she adds this is the first license suspension of its kind in the state in the past two years.
Dr. Pam Martin: “We don’t take a suspension like this lightly. I completely understand it’s a disruption for staff and it’s a huge disruption for the residents who are being cared for. We don’t take this kind of action without a long-term effort to work with a facility and a lot of attention paid to providing technical assistance and trying to make sure that any facility comes up to standard.”
Dr. Martin says ShelterCare is entitled to a hearing within ten days. She hopes Lane County will be interested in reestablishing the mental health beds and finding a way to reopen the Heeran Center in some capacity.