Embattled mental healthcare facility says it has a plan for change

Caleb Diehl
Unity Behavioral Health Center in Portland

Trent Green, president of Unity Behavioral Health Care, outlines new strategy following lawsuits and investigations into patient safety.

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As state and local leaders scramble for solutions to a mental healthcare crisis, Green affirms faith in the “Alameda model” that inspired Unity. Pioneered at a California mental hospital, the approach combines inpatient care, courtrooms and other services under one roof.

“I think the model is right,” Green says. “Like anything new it takes time to adapt.”

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There’s a lot of money riding on the outcome: Four major healthcare providers—OHSU, Kaiser Permanente, Adventist and Legacy Health—have invested $40 million in the project.

Activists have called the Alameda model into question after a slew of troubling safety violations in Unity’s first year of operation.

Two nurses filed $1 million lawsuits, and the state Occupational Health and Safety Administration fined the facility $1,650 for improperly documenting safety violations. Earlier this month the Oregon Health Authority released a 105-page report detailing safety concerns, suicide attempts and self-harm behaviors.

“The road has certainly been paved with challenges,” Green says. The problems encountered over the past year, he added, “stressed our capabilities, and we’ve learned a number of things.”

He says Unity remains in an experimental “startup phase” and he doesn’t know how long that will last.

Trent Green Unity Center 1Trent Green, President of Legacy Emanuel Medical Center and Unity Center for Behavioral Health. 

After OHA surveryors investigated in May, Green says, Unity began a five-part plan for reform. First, the hospital held a three-day refresher training with staff to standardize safety procedures.“One of the challenges we’ve experienced,” Green says, “is bringing together individuals from four organizations to operate as one.”

Unity removed potentially dangerous objects noted in the OHA report, including plastic spoons, coffee carafes and bathroom doors.

The hospital also made plans to fix blind spots in cameras, streamline documentation, mandate daily reports on unsafe items and change the process for administering medication. Green says he doesn’t know how much the changes will cost overall.

Sixty five of the hospital’s 107 beds are now full. With the changes in place, Green says, “we feel fully confident we can care for patients in a safe and effective manner.”

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