A man with psychosis flew from Oregon to New York City after being released from the hospital; parents are asking for a change

A Portland family highlights the difference in treatment for serious mental illness between Oregon and New York after a dangerous experience and the help that follows.

PORTLAND, Ore. After being released overnight from a Portland hospital for failing to meet Oregon’s standards for involuntary mental health care, Jeff Rotts’ son flew to New York City while experiencing al· hallucinations

Our son got on a plane with psychosis, Rott told KGW. Was it a danger? Yes, everyone on that plane!

The case highlights differences in the treatment of serious mental illness between Oregon and other states.

In New York, the Rotts’ son received involuntary medication and mental health treatment that he could not receive in Oregon because of the states’ “imminent” danger threshold for severe disability and civil commitment.

Her parents say she is doing better now and managing her mental illness, something they were unable to do in Oregon.

A change of disposition

Reflecting on more than three decades of marriage, Jeff Rott and Kathy Shaughnessy describe their son, now 29, as extremely kind and gentle.

We couldn’t squash the bugs in the house, (we’d have to) take them outside, Shaughnessy said, something her son required.

His nature made his development of severe mental illness and psychotic outbursts all the more surprising.

Completely blind, right? From the son studying for medical school to someone suddenly starting to disconnect from reality, Rott said.

RELATED: At the intersection of homelessness, mental illness and addiction in Portland lies psychosis

His son was diagnosed with schizophrenia. While they wanted to share their experiences, Rott and Shaughnessy asked KGW not to name their son, as he is recovering with care, and they don’t want to jeopardize that.

Her symptoms of psychosis began in college. Jeff and Kathy said he heard things, said people were spying on him, and one night he walked from Portland to Newberg on the highway.

Because they think nothing is wrong with them, right? Rott said.

Rott and Shaughnessy said they felt fortunate that during some psychotic episodes, their son agreed to stay in the hospital.

He would get to the ER, hopefully say the magic words, I am thinking about killing myself and they would put him in behavioral health and then he would stay, Rott said.

However, if he refused the medication and doctors decided he was not a danger to himself or others, under Oregon law they could not force treatment.

New York, New York

In 2019, Jeff and Kathy said a The Portland-area hospital released her son without warning and sent him on a bus pass.

We had been there every day his family, who are obviously going to be his caretakers and they let him go, Rott said.

The next morning, Rott woke up and looked at his phone.

We tracked his phone, I looked at the map and (the dot) was usually here in Portland and the map just slid, Rott said. Oh no, I was in New York, in New York City.

Her son, who suffered from psychosis and hallucinations, had bought a plane ticket and flown across the country.

What are you doing?” Rott said. alive

Rott said her son was clearly a danger to anyone around him.

They called the NYPD and told them what had happened. Police officers later found her son and took him to a hospital where he refused medication and treatment, but the New York facility held him anyway.

They wouldn’t let him back until he was OK, Rott said. They knew they had to help him, and here in Portland and Oregon, they took to the streets he

Rott and Shaughnessy had tried to get treatment for their son in Oregon for years without success because of state standards and a system that often waits for a crime to be committed before imposing care.

Rott said he saw a different path in New York.

New York cared about him a lot, I mean that’s the easiest way to put it, he said.

The New York facility sent her son to a mental health court, where lawyers and a judge discussed involuntary treatment, while Rott heard what she described as a willingness to resolve it.

It was beautiful because what you saw was a judge and (attorneys) who really cared about him working it out, Rott said. The judge asked if we give him this medicine and when will he go back to his normal life? And everyone said yes and so the judge (ordered it).

“we are the monsters”

Two months after being admitted, Rott came in for one of his daily visits to see his son, expecting his son to be combative or dismissive.

He didn’t recognize me as I was, and I walked in and he said, “Hi, Dad,” Rott said with tears in his eyes.

Rott said the forced medication and treatment infrastructure in New York worked to restore her children’s mental competence, as she had been unable to recognize her illness before.

New York law does not require “imminent danger” for forced treatment at a high level that may be difficult to achieve. New York also has more than 2,500 civilian beds.

In contrast, Oregon’s civil commitment law requires imminent danger for a person to meet the serious disability requirement. Oregon has fewer than 50 civilian beds and stopped admitting almost any civilian patients to the state hospital over the past five years.

As a result, people with serious mental illness often only receive treatment for serious mental illness after they commit a crime that sends them to prison.

Rott said he sees news stories where someone in a mental health crisis has committed a serious crime.

The world will label that person as a monster or this horrible piece of trash,” he said, “and meanwhile, it could have been my son.

He said he believes Oregon’s current system sets people up for failure without access to long-term care, whether through involuntary treatment or safe mental health bed space.

We are the monsters, we collectively did not help this person who needed help, he said.

This is part three of a three-part KGW “Uncommitted” series exploring how Oregon has effectively criminalized serious mental illness over the past five years, often waiting for people to commit a serious crime before seeking treatment. The report will air at 6:30 PM during KGW’s broadcast of The Story. An additional story about the possible solution and efforts to fix the system can be found here.

PART ONE: A Portland couple tried everything to get their son mental health treatment. Then, he killed his mother

SECOND PART: Almost all Oregon State Hospital beds go to criminal patients, all but civil commitment in Oregon

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