A state investigation found that a staffer at the crisis respite center in Warrenton did not neglect a patient who was wrongfully arrested after a fight in December.
An Oregon Health Authority review of the respite center in January determined that staff provided false information to Warrenton police that led to the arrest. The finding was referred to the state Office of Training, Investigations and Safety, known as OTIS, which investigates abuse allegations.
OTIS concluded that while there may have been miscommunication, there was no evidence to support an allegation the staffer provided false or misleading information.
The wrongful arrest, which was corrected within a few hours, set off a damaging chain of events for Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare. The private nonprofit is Clatsop County’s mental health contractor and operates the respite center.
Amy Baker, the executive director, was placed on administrative leave in late December by the board chairwoman pending an internal investigation of her on-call responsibilities at the respite center. After the internal investigation was complete, Baker was cleared by the board and returned to work in January. But the board chairwoman and another board member resigned in protest.
The Oregon Health Authority review was critical of the respite center staff and Baker.
Video footage of the fight showed the wrong patient was arrested. The program manager wanted to contact police and alerted Baker, who was on-call that night, but Baker initially advised her to wait until the next morning. After the program manager grew uncomfortable with the decision and reached out a second time, Baker authorized her to have police look at the video.
Baker asked the Oregon Health Authority to consider making corrections to the review after the OTIS investigation. She believed — correctly — that the state would not substantiate an allegation of neglect by respite center staff.
Saerom England, a spokeswoman for the health authority, said the two processes are separate. The health authority’s review looked at whether the respite center was fulfilling state licensing requirements and following state rules, while OTIS examined a specific finding of patient neglect.
“We do not plan to make any changes,” England said in an email.
Baker said the agency appreciates and respects the health authority’s oversight, “but we believe OTIS did a more thorough investigation.”
“From my perspective, the fact that staff were not responsible for a wrongful arrest was a really important conclusion to the investigation,” she said.
The confusion, the different investigations showed, was over which patient instigated the fight. The patient who was arrested was known to be aggressive and was bleeding and agitated when police arrived. The other patient involved apparently admitted to police that he was at fault, but it was not clear to police until the video footage was reviewed a few hours later.
Before it was sorted out, the patient was arrested for disorderly conduct and criminal mischief, and then arrested again for criminal trespass when he returned to the respite center after being released from county jail.
No charges were ever filed.