PORTLAND, Ore. June 27 2020 A Portland-based hospital system said it is changing its protocols after a non-violent Black patient accused of trespassing was held by security Thursday evening.
Initial reports from hospital employees said the woman was a patient in Legacy Emanuel Medical Center’s emergency room but would not leave after being discharged, claiming she had not received all of her belongings, reports AP News.
When she wouldn’t leave, the woman was handcuffed by hospital security and held for more than an hour outside the entrance while they waited for Portland police to make a trespassing arrest. Some passersby took photos of the incident and the woman was eventually let go after staff complained to hospital management.
The following day, Legacy Health officials announced it was suspending their security personnel’s use of handcuffing or trespass arrests in non-violent situations at all of its medical centers.
“We are conducting a full and swift investigation,‘’ Gretchen Nichols, president of Legacy Health’s Columbia Region, wrote in an email to staff the next day, according to Oregon Live. “First and foremost, our patient relations team is reaching out to the patient to listen, hear what happened from the patient’s perspective, and to offer immediate and continued support for their safety and wellbeing.”
Incidents like this are a growing problem, according to Disability Rights Oregon (DRO), an advocacy group that offers legal advice for people with physical or mental disabilities. A report released last spring by the group said Portland hospitals are contributing to “the criminalization of people with mental illness” through its trespass arrests.
In the report, the group analyzed 142 trespass arrests from the summer of 2017 through the summer of 2018 at six Portland hospitals, including Legacy Emanuel. In 94% of the cases, the individual was arrested and booked into jail. Of those that were arrested, only a quarter appeared to present a risk of violence, according to the report.
The report also found that of the 142 arrests:
People experiencing homelessness, people of color, and those suffering from mental health problems were disproportionately represented
109 involved patients seeking care or being discharged, mostly those who refused to leave the ER
30% indicated a mental health concern
In the report, DRO called on hospitals to change their trespass policies, provide better discharge planning and create non-law enforcement street response teams.
“This is a problematic tactic that Legacy has been aware of for a long time,‘’ said Sarah Radcliffe, managing attorney for DRO. “It’s good to see them take action now.‘’