In 2019, a man named Salvador Martinez-Romero stabbed four people during a meth-fueled crime spree in Beaverton. After his arrest, he was deemed psychologically unfit to stand trial, and sent to Oregon’s one psychiatric hospital, which kept Martinez-Romero for three years.
Prosecutors argued Martinez-Romero was ready to face trial even though doctors admittedly couldn’t resolve his delusions. A judge agreed with the prosecutor and sent Martinez-Romero back to jail to await a trial set for next year.
His three-year stay at the overcrowded hospital did not restore him to competency and, Lucas Manfield reports, it cost about $1.5 million.
“You don’t want to make someone decide whether they’re going to plead guilty, on a murder, thinking that the trial is controlled by supernatural beings,” Manfield explains. “That is not a fair justice system.”
Today I’m talking to Manfield, whose cover story “Revolving Door” shines a light on a huge contributor to Oregon’s mental health crisis. It’s the lack of sustainable or effective care for the three groups of patients served by the state’s single locked psychiatric facility: those found guilty except for insanity (GEI); civilly committed patients who present a danger to themselves or others, or simply can’t take care of their basic needs; and mentally ill patients charged with a crime but unable to assist in their own defense, like Martinez-Romero.
Over the past decade, patients like Martinez-Romero-have outstripped all patients in the other two categories. Lucas is going to break down why that is.