Three weeks after he was shot during a traffic stop, Portland Officer Christopher Burley said he’s not angry at the man who shot him but wishes he could have gotten the mental health he needed before their encounter.

“The community as a whole failed Mr. Otis,” said Burley, referring to Keaton Otis, the mentally ill man who shot him during a traffic stop. “I think it’s something we can all learn from.”

Burley, 31, a five-year member of the Portland Police Bureau and member of its Hotspot Enforcement Action Team, spoke about the May 12 shooting at East Precinct, alongside team Sgt. Don Livingston and Officer Ryan Foote. Foote drove Burley to the hospital in a police car.

Burley was struck by two bullets in the upper, inner thigh groin area that went through muscle tissue and exited, and remarkably did not strike any major arteries.

Yet on the ride to the hospital in the back of a police car, Burley thought, “Is this the end of my police career? Is my life going to be different forever?”

He worried that his mother in Boise, Idaho, his hometown, would find out about the shooting from news reports.

“I was upset that I hadn’t put a plan together,” he said.

And, images of a man who’d been shot 8 months earlier at The Orient bar and was walking around with a cane and braces on his leg, went through his mind.

Burley was released from the hospital two days later. Initially, he said he walked with a waddle, but his stride has returned. He looked physically strong and fit today, dressed in khaki pants and a black Gang Resistance Education and Training shirt.

Ten days later, he joined his GREAT students, who were painting over graffiti in Southeast Portland. He said he’s thankful for the support from friends, family, students, and even from a few he’s arrested who have reached out to him.

Mostly, he’s thankful he’s alive and takes pleasure in even the most mundane pursuits – such as mowing the lawn of his Portland home.

“If I hadn’t been as fortunate ….I might not even be there to mow my yard,” he said.

The officers have returned to administrative duty, after a debriefing last night with the Traumatic Incident Team and fellow team members, and meetings with counselors. Members of the HEAT team involved in the incident are likely to remain off the street for about 30 days.

Burley, who has taught Gang Resistance Education and Training at Floyd Light Middle School, attended his students’ graduation earlier this morning. His students presented get well cards they made for him.

Sixth grader Emily Nelson called Burley “awesome,” and described him as “kind and caring.”

Burley was shot as he was struggling to pull motorist Keaton Otis, 25, from a Toyota Corolla and Otis yanked his arm away. Three other officers fired their Taser at Otis, but the stun gun shots weren’t effective. Police said Otis reached across the passenger seat and grabbed a 9mm pistol from the glove compartment.

Burley, who was standing by the Toyota’s driver’s door, told detectives he heard another officer shout “he’s going for something” and said he saw Otis reach into a Crown Royal bag. He said he stepped back and heard two pops and felt a burning pain. Burley fell to the ground.

“It was scary as I fell,” he recalled. “Do I have the use of my legs?” He wondered.

He moved his legs a bit and thought to himself, “OK, this is good.”

He crawled and pushed himself toward a curb as he continued to hear gunshots and radioed he’d been shot.

Had he not heard another officer warn him that Otis was reaching for something, Burley suspects he likely wouldn’t have backed up and his head might have been in the line of fire.

“I was looking for a lot of blood,” he said. When he didn’t see any, “I felt relief again.”

Foote helped drag Burley to a police car. Sgt. Livingston, who initially thought Burley had been killed when he saw him drop, checked on Burley in the back of the police car.

Burley remembers that moment.

Chris Burley, shot in both legs during a traffic stop last month that ended with the shooting death of Keaton Otis, and some of the kids he mentors for the Portland Police Bureau’s GREAT program from Floyd Light Middle School. Burley talked about the shooting today during a news conference.”I felt like I was back being a 4-year-old and your dad arrives at the scene…it’s OK, everything is going to be alright now,” Burley recalled.

Livingston said he felt responsible, and described how scary it was to see one of the officers on his team drop to the ground after getting shot.

Foote said he was frustrated he couldn’t find Burley’s injuries and called the drive to the hospital one of the scariest moments of his life. People along the sidewalks were pointing to his passing police car, motioning that he was going the wrong way. ” If they only knew,” Foote thought.

Burley said he harbors no anger against Otis.

“I was frustrated that Mr. Otis had decided he didn’t want to cooperate with what we were doing,” Burley said. But he added, “It saddens me that Mr. Otis died.”

He says he’s aware Otis’ family had tried to get Otis committed, but couldn’t prove he was a danger to himself or others.

“The community as a whole failed Mr. Otis,” Burley said. “He deserved resources.”

Burley, who previously taught high school physics and math in Chicago before becoming an officer, said he decided to speak out to draw attention to the crises on the streets.

“It was an opportunity to encourage the community to come together and assist those people who are in crisis.”

— Maxine Bernstein
Source: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/06/portland_officer_chris_burley.html


Mental health care provider returns to profitability and starts building a cash reserve

Cascadia Behavioral Health recovers from near collapse
Mental health care provider returns to profitability and starts building a cash reserve

Portland Business Journal – by Courtney Sherwood Business Journal staff writer
Cathy Cheney | Portland Business Journal
Under Derald Walker’s leadership, Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare quietly turned itself around.

Two years after a financial meltdown nearly destroyed Multnomah County’s safety net for the mentally ill, the nonprofit at the center of the crisis has rebounded.

Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare Inc. is a shadow of its former self, and will bear the burden of its April 2008 near collapse for many years. Even at half its former size, however, the Portland nonprofit remains a key component of the county’s safety net.

It returned to profitability in March. CEO Derald Walker, appointed in the midst of the crisis to turn Cascadia around, hopes to build a $500,000 cash reserve by early 2011.

Two years ago, these results seemed inconceivable.

Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare runs clinics for people struggling with addiction, offered counseling to people with severe mental illness and housed poor people with mental illnesses.

But in spring 2008, poor bookkeeping put all that at risk.

State Medicaid officials had ordered Cascadia to repay $2.7 million when the nonprofit could not provide documents backing previous years’ claims. Capital Pacific Bank had demanded repayment of a $2 million loan.

Leslie Ford, who had been CEO since Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare was founded through the 2002 merger of several smaller nonprofits, had been forced out. Two consecutive chief financial officers hired to turn Cascadia around had quit, after declaring the company’s books a mess and uncovering still more liabilities.

By summer 2008, it appeared as though Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare’s programs would be dismantled and farmed out to other nonprofits.
Instead, the nonprofit is paying down its debt

“They still have to watch their pennies,” said Kathy Tinkle, business services director for Multnomah County Human Services. “But they’ve made significant progress.”

Under Walker’s leadership, Cascadia obtained a $2.2 million loan from Multnomah County and the state. It negotiated its Medicaid assessment down to $1.2 million, payable over five years.

It also relinquished its role as Multnomah County’s pre-eminent mental health care provider by transferring several of its programs to other area nonprofits in order to cut expenses.

In August 2008, Lifeworks Northwest took over Cascadia’s Gresham clinic and Central City Concern took control of a downtown clinic at Southwest 12th and Stark streets. Luke-Dorf took control of Bridgeview, a residential treatment center.

Surrendering these programs cut Cascadia’s expenses, and the nonprofit cut costs still further by consolidating office space and leaving administrative jobs unfilled.

By drawing down the county-state loan, Cascadia invested in a $250,000 medical billing system aimed at further improving the nonprofit’s finances. The system prohibits Cascadia from submitting incomplete Medicaid claims, so that it can never again be reimbursed without adequate documentation, Walker said.

These cuts are paying off for the organization, but they have also left Cascadia much smaller.

It lost $2.1 million on revenues of $55.9 million in the year ending June 30, 2008, and lost $514,000 on revenues of $42.5 million the following year. Walker expects to end this fiscal year with a surplus of at least $200,000 from a budget of $38 million.

In 2008, Cascadia provided about 80 percent of Multnomah County’s mental health services. Now it provides only 32 percent of these services.

Meanwhile, county mental health officials have undergone their own transformation aimed at avoiding more surprises like the April 2008 Cascadia meltdown.

“We have realized that we can not be in a situation where we are so dependent on a single agency,” Tinkle said.

County mental health leaders now meet quarterly with their largest nonprofit contractors, and monthly with Cascadia, to track the performance health of the nonprofits that they fund.

Jason Renaud, volunteer and secretary of the board of the Mental Health Association of Portland, applauded Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare’s turnaround, and the county’s renewed oversight.

But he also lamented a mental health system that faces stagnant funding and growing demand.

Cascadia’s front-line workers, in particular, have borne a difficult burden through this transformation.

They have not received pay hikes since 2008. With a recent increase in the portion that many pay for health insurance, a number are now taking home less than they did two years ago.

Walker also cut vacation days.

A new program that manages counselor productivity can allow some employees to boost take-home pay if they increase billings as a share of total hours worked. Though many workers have embraced the program, others grumble on the growing emphasis on money in a caring profession.

Since the nonprofit’s fiscal crisis, employees have had to accept paper checks because Cascadia does not have enough of a cash buffer to implement a direct deposit system.

But unlike the crisis of two years ago, these are challenges that observers expect Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare to survive.

“Unfortunately, any nonprofit with the county is in this boat,” Tinkle said. “Our dollars aren’t growing as fast as our personnel and expenses.”


Amanda Stott-Smith pleads guilty to drowning son, attempting to drown daughter

Amanda Stott-Smith
Nearly a year after Amanda Jo Stott-Smith was taken into custody in a downtown Portland parking garage, the 32-year-old woman pleaded guilty Tuesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court to the drowning death of her 4-year-old son and attempted drowning of her 7-year-old daughter.

Stott-Smith will be 67 before she will be eligible to apply for parole, under a negotiated plea deal that avoids trial in a gut-wrenching case that gripped the community.

Police say Stott-Smith pushed her children off the Sellwood Bridge into the Willamette River in the early-morning hours of May 23. The incident happened during her weekend visitation with the children, who lived with their dad. Eldon Jay Rebhan Smith died; his sister, now 8, survived.

Stott-Smith told investigators that she dropped both children off the bridge in an act of revenge against their father, Jason Smith, who was her estranged husband. She believed he was having an affair with a family friend. He had gained custody of the two children a month earlier, in late April 2009.

Stott-Smith had faced an eight-count indictment but pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder.

“I’m guilty,” Stott-Smith said to each count Tuesday afternoon, standing before Judge Julie E. Frantz.

She will face a life sentence with the possibility of parole after a minimum of 35 years in prison, Deputy District Attorney John Casalino said. She’ll be on post-prison supervision for life.

Her sentencing will be April 22.

Stott-Smith, wearing her long, brown hair down and dressed in a black sweater over a blue shirt with black slacks and heels, sat between her two attorneys, Kenneth Hadley Jr. and Deborah Burdzik.

Sheriff’s deputies kept a chain around her ankles and waist, but her appearance was in stark contrast to her previous court appearances, when she wore either blue jail garb or a green suicide protective vest.

She looked behind her before the hearing began, apparently to see who was attending.

Jason Smith, the father of the two children Amanda Jo Stott-Smith threw off the Sellwood Bridge, listens to Tuesday’s court proceedings. His daughter, who survived, now lives with him in Eugene.

Jason Smith, who has had no contact with Stott-Smith since the event, walked into the courtroom with the prosecutor. He was accompanied by his lawyer, Laura Schantz, and sat in the front row.

“I think he’s doing it for the sake of his son, Eldon, and daughter,” Schantz said.

The judge noted that Stott-Smith is on a medication called Abilify, commonly prescribed for depression, and asked if she clearly understood the plea deal. “Yes,” she replied.

Stott-Smith wore a blank expression throughout most of the hearing. She briefly closed her eyes as the judge explained that she was pleading guilty to having intentionally caused the death of her son and intentionally attempting to cause the death of her daughter.

Casalino said the children’s father, who did not speak during or after the hearing, supported the sentence.

Around 1 a.m. May 23, about six hours after she picked up the children for her weekend visit, Stott-Smith, distraught and crying, called Jason Smith and told him, “Help me, help me. … You’ve taken my joy away. … Don’t have my kids anymore. Why have you done this to me?”

Jason Smith, according to court documents, told police he kept asking, “Are the kids OK? Where are the kids?”

The first calls to 9-1-1 reporting screams near the Sellwood Bridge came in about 1:20 a.m. Several residents were drawn outside, having heard a splash, then screams and moans from the river.

David Haag and his companion, Cheryl Robb, who lived in a floating home northwest of the bridge, got in their boat and maneuvered close to the children. They found the girl, her head and one leg out of the water, gasping for air.

Haag then noticed the boy, dived in and pulled the children from the water. He and Robb took them to the Oregon Yacht Club dock, where Sgt. Peter Simpson performed CPR on Eldon. It was too late to save him, but the girl was helped by paramedics.

Jason Smith called Tualatin police at 2:49 a.m., worried about the children’s welfare. Meanwhile, Portland police began tracking Stott-Smith by following her cell phone signal. They found her on the ninth floor of a downtown parking garage, where an officer grabbed her as she tried to jump about 10:25 a.m.

The previous summer, Stott-Smith’s family had raised concerns in court about her ability to care for her children because of alcohol abuse, and her mother, grandmother and brother-in-law took the awkward step of testifying against her.

Schantz said Tuesday that Smith’s daughter is doing “fantastic.” She lives with her dad in Eugene. She has received counseling and continues to take swimming lessons, a skill that saved her life.

“You’d think she’d be afraid, but she’s not. She loves to swim,” Schantz said.

Other relatives on Stott-Smith’s side of the family, as well as Portland homicide Detectives Michele Michaels and Bryan Steed, who handled the case, also attended the hearing.

The plea deal came after four settlement hearings. With it, Stott-Smith avoided a potential death sentence or true life in prison sentence were the case to go to trial. If she had pleaded guilty except for insanity, she would have been under the supervision of the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board, and the board would have determined when she might have been released or returned to the community.

— Maxine Bernstein

Cascadia begins to pay back $2.3 million government loan

Cascadia begins to pay back $2.3 million government loan
Posted by mhaberman July 06, 2009 18:01PM

More than a year after its financial crash threatened to upend mental health care services in Multnomah County, Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare made its first payment on the $2.3 million government bailout that allowed the agency to stay afloat.

Cascadia, the county’s largest provider of mental health care services, came near to collapse in April 2008 under the weight of poor business practices.

The nonprofit company last week paid $90,000 toward the loan, said Althea Milechman , a Multnomah County spokeswoman.

Forty percent of that amount will go to the state Department of Human Services and the rest to the county. Payments are scheduled in increasing increments through February 2021.

At the time of the crash, Cascadia provided about 80 percent of the county’s adult mental health services, including housing, treatment and crisis services for mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction.

In the aftermath, Cascadia has transferred several clinics in Multnomah and Washington counties to other providers.

“We don’t want to put all of our eggs in one basket,” said Mindy Harris, Multnomah County chief financial officer .

–Gillian Frew: gillianfrew@news.oregonian.com


Insurance company of driver who intentionally hit cyclists agrees to pay $100,000

Insurance company of driver who intentionally hit cyclists agrees to pay $100,000
Posted by jrose June 17, 2009 07:51AM

Two things I didn’t know: Without a court verdict, an insurance company can refuse to process a car-crash victim’s claim if its policyholder refuses to cooperate. And liability policies don’t cover “I meant to do it” crashes.

Well, nearly two years after Johnny Eschweiler deliberately rammed his car into two bicyclists on a Portland street, his insurance company has agreed to pay one of the victims $100,000.

But it wasn’t because Eschweiler, a janitor who avoided a prison sentence after being found guilty except for insanity, had a change of heart and started cooperating with Farmers Insurance.

“Johnny has refused to talk to his own insurance company the whole time,” said Mark Ginsberg, the Portland attorney of injured cyclist Ben Ramsdell. “They couldn’t do anything as long as he refused to cooperate.”

Complicating things, Ginsberg said, was the fact that Eschweiler admitted intentionally crashing into Ramsdell and Timothy Mastne – after one of the cyclists chided him for bad driving – in the 1000 block of Southeast Clinton Street on Aug. 17, 2007.

Intentional crashes aren’t typically insured by liability policies, he said. But when Multnomah County Circuit Judge Michael McShane found Escweiller guilty but insane, “intent no longer mattered,” Ginsberg said, noting that the driver in effect didn’t have the mental stability to know what he was doing.

Farmers agreed to recognize Ramsdell’s claim of $100,000, the maximum covered under Eschweiller’s policy.

In court, a psychiatrist testified that Eschweiler – who has been brain damaged since childhood and has trouble controlling his impulses – was capable of living peacefully with proper supervision.

McShane ordered Eschweiler shall live at home under the jurisdiction of the state Psychiatric Security Review Board for up to 15 years. Eschweiler had been charged with two counts of attempted murder among other crimes and could have faced at least 7 1/2 years in prison if convicted without the insanity clause.

Eschweiler is also forbidden from driving his car for the rest of his life.

Ramsdell, 27, suffered a broken nose and finger, deep scrapes to his face and missing chunks of tissue from his shoulders and back. He was hospitalized for a week, took painkillers for two months and struggled through a difficult time as he withdrew from those drugs.

In April, he said he still had pain in his muscles, and scars across his face.

Ramsdell said the incident unfolded as he was cycling to work on the bike boulevard and Eschweiler drove by within inches of hitting his handlebars. Ramsdell said he caught up at a stop sign and tapped on Eschweiler’s window, then told him to drive more carefully. Eschweiler put the car in park and opened the door, he said.

“I took off, made it two blocks and the next thing I know I was in the ER,” Ramsdell said.

Mastne was cycling in the opposite direction when he was struck by Eschweiler. He was hospitalized with injuries including extensive road rash.

Ginsberg said $40,000 of the insurance settlement will go to medical bills and percentage will be taken out for attorney fees. “But this was the best outcome possible,” Ginsberg said, noting that Eschweiler likely wouldn’t have the income or resources to pay for a civil settlement.

A claim by Mastne, 43, is still pending.

– Joseph Rose; josephrose@news.oregonian.com

Portland stalking victim stabbed to death

Portland stalking victim stabbed to death
Posted by Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian April 15, 2009 20:24PM

Court records
Sean L. Kelly’s application for a stalking order against Ralph Williamson

Ralph A. Williams is still on the docket to appear in Multnomah County Circuit Court today to respond to his neighbor’s request for a permanent stalking order against him.
Ralph A. Williams
Instead, Williams, 54, faces murder charges, and his neighbor, Sean Liam Kelly, 40, lies in the morgue, dead of stab wounds and crushing blows to the head.

Kelly had been begging for help for at least the past month from Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare housing officials, police and the courts, citing his neighbor’s increasing threats of violence against him, court records show.
Sean Liam Kelly
He had hoped a judge would sign a permanent order today against Williams, who lived next door to him in an independent housing building for the mentally ill on North Chase Avenue.

Stalking orders between residents living side by side in special needs or public housing complexes aren’t uncommon. Judges can’t order people to move, making such orders a challenge. Judges say they must be creative to give the person seeking an order some sense of security and make sure they have a safety plan in place.

“It’s one of the most difficult things that we face,” Multnomah County Circuit Judge Cheryl Albrecht said. “In stalking orders, there’s just no ability to force someone to move from their residence. It’s not an effective remedy. It’s just not. You just hold your breath and try to be as direct and clear with the respondent about the scope of your order. It’s perilous at best.”

Kelly obtained a temporary stalking protective order against Williams last month, detailing ongoing harassment, intimidation, racial slurs and vandalism he endured from Williams.

Kelly, who was on unemployment and attending classes at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek campus, called police twice last month and documented the abuse, threats, property damage and growing tensions between him and Williams in back-and-forth e-mails to Cascadia Housing property manager Deborah Hicks.

In early March, Kelly said Williams poured six gallons of water into the gas tank of his car and then became aggressive and called Kelly a “snitch” after he reported the vandalism to police. He said Williams stuck his hand in his face, threatened to harm him, and banged on his apartment door while spewing profanity and racial slurs, according to the stalking order application.

“I was clearly not safe in my own house, and I began to be afraid of leaving my room,” Kelly wrote, noting Williams, at 6-foot-5 and more than 200 pounds, was much larger. Kelly was 5-foot-11 and weighed 160 pounds.

Cascadia had recommended mediation between the two men and urged Kelly “to stay clear” of Williams, although that was next to impossible because Williams lived in the neighboring unit and they shared a kitchen. Cascadia also recommended Kelly contact the courts or police and mailed Williams an eviction notice March 13, listing Kelly’s well-documented run-ins with Williams.

“I understand that you are fearful, and I would be too,” Hicks e-mailed Kelly on March 16. “I hope he doesn’t do anything to harm you, but you are totally within your rights to do whatever legally you can. … You want to do whatever you can to protect yourself while we wait this out.”

Cascadia does not staff the housing complex with a case manager, and the property manager is not on site.

Jim Hlava, Cascadia’s vice president for housing, said he could not talk about specifics but said the case would be reviewed internally.

Applicants must be assessed as “ready and capable” to live on their own, Hlava said. Cascadia also does a criminal background check and reviews the person’s documentation of income and disability.

Kelly moved to the North Chase Avenue unit early this year. It’s not clear how long Williams lived at the site. Williams also faced an unrelated domestic violence restraining order filed against him in March 2008, after he knocked a woman unconscious and stomped on her head, court records show.

Christy Brewfaugh, a close friend of Kelly’s mother, questioned why Williams was allowed to live in the building, considering his violent past.

Hlava said that when tenants don’t get along, Cascadia gives them options, whether it’s mediation or calls to police if there’s vandalism or violence.

“We take appropriate landlord action with the information that is given to us,” Hlava said. “We work within the landlord-tenant law.”

The court granted Kelly a temporary stalking protective order March 18. The next day, a Multnomah County sheriff’s deputy served the notice in person to Williams. It ordered Williams not to come into “visual or physical presence” of Kelly, speak with him or damage his property.

Just before 7 a.m. Tuesday, a 9-1-1 call came to Portland police, reporting an assault at the North Chase Avenue address. When police arrived, Williams was outside the building, and said, “Arrest me. … I stabbed him with a butcher knife.”

According to Williams, Kelly had come into the common kitchen area of the building, told Williams to get out of his way, and went back to his apartment. Williams told police he had “had enough” of Kelly, grabbed a butcher knife and waited for Kelly to return.

Once he returned, Williams told police, he “let the knife do the talking.”

He said he stabbed Kelly five to seven times in the upper chest and head. As Kelly tried to run across the street, Williams tried to stab him in the back, a probable cause affidavit says.

When the knife blade broke, Williams picked up a cinder block and struck Kelly in the face as he lay dying on the front yard of a neighbor’s home.

— Maxine Bernstein; maxinebernstein@news.oregonian.com