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Mental Health House Closing in Medford

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MEDFORD, Ore. – Jackson County is preparing to close one of its treatment houses for convicted felons found Guilty Except for Insanity. These transitional houses are run by the state Psychiatric Security Review Board for rehabilitation and to protect the public.

But county officials say there simply aren’t that many of those patients. In fact, the house they plan on closing has none.

“We knew that everybody was on their way out and it just didn’t seem like a good way to use that resource when we have so many other programming needs,” said Jackson County Mental Health division manager Stacy Brubaker.

The house is one of many living facilities in the state overseen by the Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB). Every patient came through the courts, pleading insanity on the way through.

“The goal really is to try to normalize them back into the community but also keep tabs on them at the same time,” said Brubaker.

There are currently 18 of these patients in Jackson County, according to commissioner Don Skundrick. The last one to get treatment at this house was transitioned back in the community just a few weeks ago. And new patients don’t come around very often.

The insanity defense, it turns out, just isn’t that popular.

“They choose to stay on the criminal side if they’re looking at not very long in jail,” said Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert.

When a person pleads insanity, they volunteer to serve a sentence under the PSRB. That sentence is equal to the maximum time served if they were found guilty of their crime. For something like burglary in the second degree, that’s about 5 years.

The standard state sentence doesn’t even come close.

“For burglary in the second degree, you’re just looking at 30 days in jail, straight across the board,” said Heckert. “Whether you have no criminal history of lots of criminal history.”

In this case, county officials say there are other PSRB facilities in the county that can easily handle the patient load. And they can save money by simply using the building for something else, without making compromises.

“The service level didn’t cut,” said Brubaker. “It’s just that that house will no longer be available for people to transition into.”