State board keeps convicted murderer hospitalized

Gorger with his attorney to his left

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian
September 25, 2009

A state board has ruled that a Tigard convicted murderer, who has been committed to the state mental hospital since 1999, remain hospitalized and not be released to the community.

But the state Psychiatric Security Review Board this week did recommend that the Oregon State Hospital have Gorger evaluated by a secure residential treatment facility for possible placement at some future date.

The board must schedule another full hearing before any conditonal release is made.

Rex Gorger was found guilty but insane in the Dec. 26, 1998, killing of a former Tigard High School classmate, Chris Bowen, 21, and two other stabbings, including the attempted murder of his father –three crimes that occurred within one week.

He was sentenced to life in prison for the murder, along with two 20-year sentences for the other stabbings.

The state’s decision was up in the air since a July 15 hearing before the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board. At that time, a three-member panel of the board was split 2 to 1 on whether Gorger was ready to be evaluated for release to a secure residential treatment facility. The board needed a three-member majority vote to proceed. As a result, it had to share the testimony with its two other members.

At the start of the July hearing, an assistant attorney general presented a signed agreement reached with Gorger’s lawyer, Harris Matarazzo, which held that Gorger would be released to a secure residential treatment center, such as Woodburn’s Telecare, and would be allowed on outings and given passes to the community.

But the Washington County District Attorney’s office opposed the agreement, and so did the victim’s family.

At the hearing, Oregon State Hospital staff psychiatrist David L. Jobe testified that Gorger, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and substance abuse, was stabilized with medication. Jobe said Gorger had shown “good insight” into his mental illness and the dangers of substance abuse, had been taking classes online toward an associate degree at Chemeketa Community College, and hadn’t had any psychotic episodes since March 2005.

At the state hospital, he has been housed in an unlocked cottage during the day with the ability to come and go on part of the hospital grounds with staff supervision, and has had 24- to 48-hour community release passes with his parents that have gone well.

But the family of the murder victim objected. Randi Bowen and her mother, Teresa Wenzel, urged the board to keep Gorger at the hospital, where they said they believe there’s more accountability than in a private facility. They said they’re concerned Gorger would re-offend.

–Maxine Bernstein


State hospital patient with AIDS petitions for early release

Robert Anderson
‘Humanitarian’ basis for request is a first for facility

By Alan Gustafson
Statesman Journal

Fearing that he will die from AIDS at the Oregon State Hospital, an ailing mental patient says he should be released from the Salem psychiatric facility for “humanitarian reasons.”

Robert Anderson, a Navy veteran, said he’s terminally ill and likely to die in a year to 18 months.

As Anderson tells it, he should be placed in a specialized nursing facility or a community-based group home to live out the rest of his life. He’d like to receive hospice care when the time comes.

Anderson, 47, said he hopes to get out of the state hospital through potential legal action or by seeking a conditional release from the state Psychiatric Security Review Board.

Mary Claire Buckley, the executive director of the PSRB, said Anderson’s case may be unique.

In the past, the review board has granted conditional releases for terminally ill patients at least “a couple of times,” Buckley said.”Nobody’s ever come in and said, ‘Can I have a humanitarian release?'” she said.

Anderson’s initial hearing before the review board is scheduled for Nov. 4. That’s his first chance to make his wishes known to the panel.

Anderson recently landed in the state hospital’s forensic program after he was found guilty except for insanity of attempted arson. He reportedly set fire to a Portland duplex early this year. No one was injured.

Arrested in March, Anderson was jailed for more than five months until the criminal case was resolved. He was transported to the state hospital in early August.

As it stands now, Anderson faces 10 years under the jurisdiction of the PSRB. The board monitors hundreds of forensic patients and controls their discharge dates.

Under Oregon law, the board can conditionally release patients to live in community facilities. Typically, a conditional release gets green-lighted only after a patient makes progress in psychiatric treatment, receives favorable reports from hospital therapists, is deemed no longer dangerous and has a suitable place to reside in the community.

Anderson said that terminally ill patients should be granted special consideration.

“I don’t think it’s fair that people get put here under the PSRB and then have to worry about whether or not they’re going to die in this hospital,” he said. “If the board keeps me here, they’ll turn a period of supervision basically into a death sentence.”

If Anderson officially asks the review board to release him, Buckley said, the panel would weigh multiple factors, including his prognosis, reports from hospital therapists, public safety considerations and the availability of a suitable care facility in the community.

“Clearly, if the hospital felt that he could be adequately controlled in a different environment that met both public safety and his medical needs, then I’m sure the board would be open to hearing about that,” she said. “Obviously, the board would need to hear from the hospital in terms of their prognosis and efforts in dealing with this issue.”

Drug abuse leads to HIV

A Statesman Journal review of Anderson’s hospital file, authorized by his consent, found that mental illness and drug abuse have made a shambles of his adult life.

After growing up in a boy’s home in Hershey, Pa., Anderson joined the Navy when he was 17 “because I wanted to see the world.”

His tour of duty took him to Sardinia, Italy, where he worked on a submarine tender for almost two years.

Shortly before he was discharged from the Navy in 1980, Anderson witnessed a grisly tragedy.

“Towards the end of his service Mr. Anderson witnessed an accident on his ship,” wrote a state hospital social worker in a recent report that delved into his background. “A rope somehow beheaded one sailor, cut another in half, and injured the arm of a third individual. Mr. Anderson says that around this time … he began to experience hearing voices and having ‘disjointed” thinking. He characterizes these symptoms as the beginning indicators that he had schizophrenia.”

After his Navy stint, Anderson worked as a fisherman, restaurant chef and construction worker. Work-related injuries and recurring bouts of mental illness prevented him from holding steady employment after he moved to Portland around 1985.

Methamphetamine abuse and crime have taken a heavy toll. In the 1990s, Anderson served three years in federal prison for bank robbery.

He tested HIV-positive about 15 years ago, records show. He reportedly was infected with the virus that causes AIDS when he injected drugs with a contaminated needle.

The U.S. Veterans Administration rates Anderson as 100 percent disabled and provides him with monthly financial support. VA funds help pay for his 20-year-old daughter’s college education.

Through the years, Anderson has been hospitalized about 15 times at the Portland VA Medical Center, records show. But Anderson complains about numerous battles with the VA, citing canceled medical appointments, difficulties in obtaining medications and financial conflicts.

Anderson may be on the hook to pay for part of his state hospital care.

The cost of patient care at OSH is $19,475 per month, according to a “notice of liability” letter Anderson received last month from the Oregon Department of Human Services.

The letter informed him that state hospital patients are liable for the cost of their care, if they can pay.

Hospital care challenged

This is Anderson’s first stay in the hospital’s forensic program, which houses more than 450 patients with histories of mental illness and crime.

He maintains that the crowded, outdated hospital has unsanitary conditions, and he worries that he’s vulnerable to the flu and other infectious illnesses.

“It’s a horrifying situation for somebody like me that basically has no immune system,” he said.

Antiviral medications commonly used to treat patients with HIV/AIDS no longer provide an effective defense against his advancing illness, Anderson said.

“It’s beyond the point where they do any good,” he said. “The disease gets smart and works its way around them. At that point, you could take truckloads of them and they do no good.”

Anderson claims the state hospital is ill-equipped to provide him with proper treatment, including experimental medications for AIDS — drugs that potentially could extend his life.

“The medications that are new and injectable are still in some form of trial stage,” he said. “Because of that they can’t be used here at the state hospital. They will not administer any experimental medications.”

Dr. Michael Duran, supervising forensic psychiatrist at OSH, declined to discuss Anderson’s condition or care, citing patient confidentiality.

Speaking in general about patient care, Duran said: “The hospital certainly will provide what’s medically indicated. Whatever the condition is, we will seek appropriate medical care, meaning that we will refer him to specialists in the area.”

Duran confirmed that Anderson has seen a medical specialist outside the state hospital.

Asked about Anderson’s assertion that the hospital won’t provide him with experimental drugs, Duran said that’s not necessarily true.

“We rely on our medical specialists to help us make decisions in terms of what appropriate medical care is,” he said. “If there were a particular situation where forms of usual therapy had failed and our experts were telling us there are experimental modalities available, we certainly would pursue those avenues.”

Despite such assurances, Anderson said he’s frustrated by his hospital care and desperate to find a way out of the institution. “I’m definitely going to ask a federal judge to step in,” he said Thursday. or (503) 399-6709

Robert Anderson

Clients Grateful as Garlington Center Reopens

Faith Cathcart/ The Oregonian

By Nikole Hannah-Jones, The Oregonian
September 18, 2009

Faith Cathcart/The OregonianGladys Howard of the Garlington Center plays Uno with clients Roxanne Taylor (left) and Sharon King on Friday. After a 2008 fire, the center reopened last week on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The center offers mental health and addiction treatment.

A few months after the Garlington Center avoided closure by Multnomah County last year, a fire closed it anyway.

But the same fighting spirit that saved the mental health and addiction clinic from the county’s ax brought it back to life. The center reopened last week on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“It was really not an option to close this location,” said Derald Walker, chief executive officer of Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, which operates the center. “It would leave the community of color here with no place to turn.”

Even before the fire, uncertainty shadowed the center’s future. Cascadia — which handled most of Multnomah County’s mental health services –was wracked by financial woes and required a government bailout to keep going.

The Garlington Center served a low-income and largely African American clientele and was the agency’s least profitable. Cascadia recommended closing it and sending clients elsewhere.

But a community used to being pushed aside because of income, race, mental illness and addiction said not this time. They fought the closing and won.

Walker says the outpouring sparked a realization about the need for the clinic to help those who often don’t feel comfortable in clinics in other areas that serve a less diverse group and with less diverse staff.

Then a spark of another sort took hold. The kind that doesn’t save, but destroys.

“When we saw the fire, when we lost Garlington, we thought it was the end of the world,” says Sharon King. “It’s something we cried about. We thought we’d never see it again.”

King, 63, is a Northeast Portland resident who’s come to the center in one of its incarnations for more than two decades. She gets treatment for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder at least three days a week.

King, like other clients, never lost services. The day after the fire, Garlington staffers dispensed medicine and saw clients from the parking lot.

Director Tasha Wheatt-Delancy said meeting needs was the first priority.

For months, staff met clients in trailers and an RV just feet from the blackened building. Clients were dispersed to other Cascadia clinics and to temporary clinics set up at the Salvation Army and a church nearby.

But it caused a hardship for people who found stability at the center and now had to go from place to place. What was a five-minute bus ride for one client turned into an 1 1/2-hour one.

And it wasn’t always pretty, either.

Gwen Ferrell, a 22-year-old who came to Garlington for a marijuana addiction, says the trailers were drafty and cold in winter. But, she says, she never thought of going anywhere else.

“It’s diverse here and you meet all types of people,” says Ferrell. “The staff understands you and even if they don’t, they’ll get into your shoes for that moment just so they can.”

And on a sunny September day, the hardship seemed to have paved the way for the blessings.

Insurance paid for a $2.1 million rebuilding, and clients now fill a lobby scented with the fresh taupe-colored paint on the walls. Nearly a year ago, in October, those walls took the charred brunt of a fire, whose cause was not determined, that destroyed about 80 percent of the building.

As part of the redesign, four interview rooms are decorated in colors and themes that reflect African American, Native American, Latino and Asian identities. And the center now provides space for two other groups that had cramped, inadequate facilities, the North by Northeast Community Health Center — a free clinic — and the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center.

For King and the up to 600 people of all races who use Garlington’s services, the beauty of the center once cloaked in ashes is a metaphor for their lives.

“I was really in a fix and this center brought me through it,” King says. “I’m glad someone thought we were important enough to bring it back for us.”

As King leaves the center, she walks past a T-shirt tacked to the reception desk.

Above a proverbial rising phoenix, it reads: “The fire is in all of us.”

— Nikole Hannah-Jones;

An insider’s perspective on Oregon State Hospital

Former OSH patient appointed to governor’s advisory board

By Alan Gustafson
Statesman Journal

Mike Adelman knows the harsh realities of life as a patient inside Oregon State Hospital, and he will bring that experience to a new state hospital advisory board.

“I’ve been on the wards,” Adelman said, recounting his 16-month treatment stint in the hospital’s crowded, violence-plagued forensic psychiatric program. “I’ve been assaulted. I know what happens when we have a lockdown because somebody escapes.”

The new advisory board was created by the 2009 Legislature to improve the safety, security and care of patients at the state hospital.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski recently appointed 13 people to the panel, and he still is looking to appoint one more person, said Rem Nivens, a Kulongoski spokesman.

Adelman aims to be a strong patient advocate on the board.

“From my viewpoint, I’m going to focus a lot on the care of patients and whether or not they’re getting the best help they can,” he said. “I still have eyes and ears inside the hospital, which is helpful, and I’m trying to get more of those going so that I can stay aware of what’s happening in there.”

Adelman, 42, was conditionally released from the psychiatric facility in March 2005. He now lives in a Salem apartment, works part time, and is subject to monitoring by the state Psychiatric Security Review Board.

In his application for appointment to the advisory board, Adelman wrote: “I would like the opportunity to work with the hospital administration to improve the quality of care at the Hospital. I believe that I can offer a unique perspective.”

He cited problems he encountered as a patient — from being the victim of a fellow patient’s assault to the death of a roommate.

“While his death was ruled to be from natural causes, it could have been prevented had he received care sooner than he did,” he wrote. “I saw this as a tragedy pointing to the need for better medical care in the hospital.”

The push to create a state hospital oversight board gained momentum after patient care and hospital conditions were harshly criticized in a report issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in January 2008.

The report alarmed state officials and spurred reforms, ranging from the hiring of hundreds of new hospital employees to the opening of centralized treatment malls designed to give patients better treatment.

“I think they’re taking some steps in the right direction,” Adelman said. “I was glad to hear about the treatment mall and that patients are required to have 20 hours of structured activity” every week.

Unfortunately, he said, many patients still languish at the hospital long after they’re deemed ready to be discharged, partly due to a shortage of community residential facilities for people coming out of the institution.

“There’s definitely not enough housing now, or we wouldn’t see people stay in the hospital for as long as they are,” Adelman said. “That adds to people’s frustration when they’re in the hospital.”

Adelman also questioned the hospital’s recent revocation of pass privileges for hundreds of patients after a single patient escaped by slipping through a hole cut in a recreation yard security fence.

Passes now are being granted again, allowing patients to take supervised off-campus outings and on-grounds walks.

However, Adelman said it was unfair to punish many patients for the escape.

“They just shut the whole place down,” he said. “That really screws up a lot of patients’ treatment plans when it wasn’t their fault. That’s not right in my book.”

Hospital security needs to be improved, Adelman said, but he doesn’t want to see the psychiatric hospital turned into a prison.

“It just feels like more and more they’re leaning in that direction,” he said. or (503) 399-6709

Additional Facts
New OSH board

The Oregon State Hospital Advisory Board is charged with reviewing the safety, security and care of patients. The panel can make recommendations directly to the hospital superintendent, the state human services director and the Legislature.

The board also will provide annual reports to the Legislature.

Documentary takes passionate look at mental illness

Faces that tell a story
By Cliff Newell
The Lake Oswego Review, Aug 31, 2009


subCITY Opening Trailer

Kevin and Dawn D’Haeze’s new documentary is truly a work of passion and commitment.

Called subCITY: Out of Sight, Out of Mind, the film uses Kevin’s technical wizardry as a maker of commercial films and Dawn’s expertise as an addictions counselor; and $100,000 of their own money.

That is because the Lake Oswego couple so much wants something done to help Americans suffering from mental illness.

“Right now, people with mental health problems are just moved along,” Dawn said. “People have their treatment cut off, and all that is left is prison or the emergency room. The same people are seen over and over and over.”

As for technique and visual effects, subCITY is superb, presenting a history lesson and a call to action in a crisp 43 minutes and 15 seconds.

But what viewers will remember most about subCITY are the faces. The faces of persons afflicted by mental illness and their struggle to be healed in a society that just is not handling this challenge in the right way.

“There are so many stories,” said Dawn, who interviewed every person featured in the film. “This film could have been 10 times as long.”

The greatest impact comes when patients talk about the closing of the “J” building at the Oregon State Hospital. The problem then becomes highly personalized. The viewer is confronted not by a faintly disturbing statistic, but by a real human being with heartbreaking problems.

“So often a person with a mental health breakdown is only admitted to a hospital if they are a danger to others,” Kevin said. “If there is not a bed available, the police are called.

“Even if they get into a hospital, the maximum time they can stay is 72 hours. Maybe they’re stabilized, maybe they’re not.”

Calling the police is not working. Capt. Don Forman of the Lake Oswego Police is interviewed in the film, and he vividly describes what a drain dealing with mental health patients puts on his department; to almost no beneficial result except temporary relief.

“What should be done is not being done,” Kevin said.

The solution?

The D’Haezes think that one way is for as many people as possible to see subCITY. The movie opens tonight in Portland at the Hollywood Theater at 6 p.m. It then comes to Lake Oswego for showings at the Lake Theater on Saturday and Sunday at noon.

For this to happen, the husband-wife documentary team is now actively seeking public donations.

Then the D’Haezes want to take their show on the road, especially for viewing by professionals in the mental health field and teachers.

“I’m an idealist,” Dawn said. “Kevin makes it a reality. What he does is just amazing to me. We want people to be moved, but with a sense of hope. Then maybe they’ll start calling their congressman or even talk to their neighbor.”

“I’ve done a lot of commercial stuff that sells things,” Kevin said. “Now I want to sell ideas.”

For more information about subCITY: Out of Sight, Out of Mind, go to the Web site .

Man Gets 60 Years In Mother’s Murder

By Karen Florin
Published on 9/2/2009
The Day

Carson J. Mueller, whose mental illness and “psychotic beliefs” led him to murder his mother last December and blow up her Griswold home a week later during an attempted suicide, has been committed to the Whiting Forensic Institute for up to 60 years.

A three-judge panel imposed the sentence Tuesday in New London Superior Court after hearing testimony from a psychiatrist who evaluated Mueller over the past two months and determined that he is a threat to society and to himself and needs to be confined and monitored.

The sentence means that Mueller, who is 34, will be under the care of the Psychiatric Security Review Board for the rest of his life or until he is 94, should he live that long.

Mueller, who had become preoccupied with black magic and the occult, said his mother, with whom he had lived for most of his life, was abusive, and he had come to believe she was practicing black magic against him and posed a threat to his two children. He said he attacked his mother while she was sleeping in their Richardson Hill Road home on Dec. 28, 2009, and strangled her to death. He admitted to hiding her body under a pile of leaves and snow in the Pachaug State Forest.

A week after he strangled her, Mueller doused the house with gasoline, planning to shoot himself with a shotgun after lighting a match. He said he lit the match and caused an explosion that blew him out of the house onto a neighbor’s lawn. He called 911 from a Franklin gas station and confessed his crimes to first responders.

Charged with murder and first-degree arson, Mueller had notified the state he would be pursuing the insanity plea and opted to be tried by a three-judge panel. Judges Susan B. Handy, Robert C. Leuba and Joseph J. Purtill heard evidence in June and determined the state would have proven him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of murder and third-degree arson. The panel then found he was not guilty by reason of insanity because he was suffering from a major depressive disorder with psychotic features and from post-traumatic stress disorder. The panel committed Mueller to Whiting for two months for evaluation and reconvened Tuesday for the sentencing.

Prosecutor John P. Gravalec-Pannone elicited testimony from Dr. Mark S. Cotterell, a psychiatrist who evaluated Mueller at Whiting, before asking the judges to impose maximum sentences of 60 years for murder and 10 years of first-degree arson.

”There’s been a prior lack of treatment for mental health issues,” Pannone said. “Obviously that lack of treatment manifested itself in the killing of his mother and the suicide attempt.”

Cotterell testified that Mueller should remain, for now, at Whiting, which is a maximum-security facility at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown. Cotterell said Mueller has major depressive disorder, chronic personality and character issues and major impairment “in several areas of function.”

Defense attorney Peter E. Scillieri said Whiting is an appropriate setting for his client.

”There is a need for Mr. Mueller to get help,” Scillieri said. “We don’t contest that.”

Scillieri asked what milestones Mueller would need to accomplish before he could be considered for a less-restrictive placement. Cotterell said Mueller would have to demonstrate a “significant reduction” in depression symptoms, an improved ability to relate to others and demonstrate that he could cope with stress appropriately. At Whiting, he will be kept on medication and engage in psychotherapy. His father, who lives in Washington State, will be notified of any changes in his confinement status.

Mueller, who sat silently throughout this and all of his other court proceedings, held his arms at his sides and shuffled back into the courthouse lockup when court adjourned.