East Ore. mental health facility may get reprieve

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — The only facility in eastern Oregon for patients with severe mental illness is expected to receive more than $2 million in funding so it can stay open until March, local legislators say.

That could give officials in Pendleton more time to figure out an alternate use for the Blue Mountain Recovery Center, the East Oregonian newspaper (http://bit.ly/HQp1cy) reported.

It’s another last-minute save for the center, whose funding was expected to run out at year’s end.

The state is overhauling mental health treatment, rebuilding the main state hospital at Salem and planning a new hospital in Junction City in the Willamette Valley by 2015.

The Pendleton facility’s fate has long been a concern in the city. Veteran Rep. Bob Jenson said he’s spent 20 years trying to keep it open.

He and Sen. Bill Hansell, both Republicans, said they expect lawmakers to approve more than $2 million to keep the center open through March. Gov. John Kitzhaber is expected to go along with that, Jenson said.

The facility has 60 beds. Current plans are to revamp three cottages on the campus, enough for 15 high-need patients and to employ 40 people.

Housing geriatric prisoners is among the ideas proposed to give the facility a new mission.

“Hopefully, given that additional time, we can come up with more of a plan,” City Council member Chuck Wood said.

Closing and reopening the Pendleton facility would mean spending millions to retrofit the structure’s systems, and it would mean starting from scratch in rebuilding the staff.

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Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.info

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