Governor signs bill requiring oversight of structured housing facilities

Five years ago, Telly Heath was a resident at Luke-Dorf in Hillsboro — a community-structured housing complex in the 400 block of Southeast Washington Street for adults with mental illnesses or drug and alcohol addictions. Heath broke into the apartment of a 21-year-old woman across the street. He raped her at knifepoint and demanded her phone number.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Telly Heath was staying at this Luke-Dorf facility on Southeast Washington Street in downtown Hillsboro in 2010 when he sexually assaulted two women. The crimes sparked calls for legislation to heighten regulations on facilities that house people with mental illnesses or addictions.The next day, he broke into another home, where an 11-year-old girl was sleeping. He threatened her with a knife, sexually abused her and fled with her mother’s cell phone. He used the phone to call the 21-year-old victim from the day before, letting police trace the call to his room at Luke-Dorf.

Heath, 39, was convicted in Washington County Circuit Court in 2011 and sentenced to 38 years in prison. He is currently serving his sentence at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton.

Luke-Dorf is a community mental health agency that serves hundreds of mentally ill adults in 26 locations across the Portland metro area, and is a contracted mental health provider in Washington County and Multnomah County. The nonprofit provides group homes, outpatient clinics, meals and other services.

According to Roger Oney, Luke-Dorf's controller and operations manager, Luke-Dorf is a licensed provider of mental health services in compliance with Oregon Administrative Rules and is regulated by its partners at the county, state and federal level. Some of Luke-Dorf’s housing facilities are licensed residential treatment homes, and others are funded through federal or state grants that are regulated by external partners and stakeholders.

But some residents raised concerns because, as far as the state's regulations, Luke-Dorf was operating under the Oregon Landlord & Tenant Law — the same law that applies to someone renting an apartment. This perceived inadequate level of oversight sparked concern in the surrounding community.

The Hillsboro Neighborhood Coalition — which includes Third Avenue Neighborhood Watch, Main Street Neighbors, Heart of Hillsboro Neighborhood and Jackson School Homeowners Association — used the two 2010 attacks by Heath as motivation to craft Oregon House Bill 3230 last July. State Rep. Joe Gallegos (D-Hillsboro) was one of the bill’s sponsors. The bill requires registration and locally developed oversight of structured housing facilities that provide services to adults with mental illnesses and drug and alcohol addictions.

"The Washington Street location in Hillsboro can only serve individuals if they have a primary mental health diagnosis in addition to a drug and alcohol diagnosis, not one or the other," Oney said.

“This bill was a step toward protecting one of Oregon’s most neglected health care fields,” Gallegos said. “It will provide the necessary safeguards to ensure the safety of a vulnerable population and the workers who care for them.” 

The Hillsboro Neighborhood Coalition formed in 2010, shortly after the two sexual assaults. After two public meetings were called to make local residents aware of Luke-Dorf’s operations, two of the founders of the organization, Linda Mokler and Judi Palumbo — both Hillsboro residents — were worried problems at Luke-Dorf were going to be swept under the rug.

“They told us there were no red flags and that they could not have seen anything that would have indicated Heath would have attacked anybody, and that they had done everything right in this case,” Mokler said. “Luke-Dorf was not going to make any changes and Washington County Community Corrections [was] not going to make any changes.”

But the family of the young girl who was sexually assaulted wanted to see something done — and decided to sue Luke-Dorf for alleged negligence in caring for Heath and also for the psychological, emotional and physical damage done to the young girl. They initially sued for $3.1 million, but increased the amount to $5.1 million before the case was settled for an undisclosed amount earlier this year.

Thankful for coalition

Hillsboro resident Suzan Hopman, who has three children, has attended occasional Hillsboro Neighborhood Coalition meetings and is thankful for what it does.

“I’m so grateful that we have people that will take time to attend every meeting,” said Hopman, who lives down the street from one of the homes where the attack took place. “I’m so disappointed in Luke-Dorf.”

After taking a closer look into the facility’s record, members of the HNC lodged several complaints and supported various bills to attempt to address the problems. The group finally found success with a fourth bill, HB 3230.

“The first bill didn’t go anywhere because it wasn’t the right bill and it was not well-crafted,” Mokler said, explaining the two bills that followed were pulled because the Addictions and Mental Health Division of the Oregon Health Authority agreed to an online public complaint process to address concerns. 

The Gallegos bill unanimously passed both houses of the Oregon Legislature and was signed by Gov. Kate Brown on July 21.

“HB 3230 does exactly what we set out to do five years ago, which was to bring more oversight to the facilities operating on community-based structured housing in our communities,” Mokler said. “It benefits the clients, the employees and the communities. We really want the clients to be successful because then the community will be safer.”

Mokler and Palumbo both said they and the rest of the coalition had the original intent of getting better overesight of Luke-Dorf and other facilities throughout Oregon.

With no regulations to track where the group housing facilities were and how many were operating, the new bill requires the facilities to register with the Department of Human Services or the Oregon Health Authority. Also the bill funds a half-time person to keep track of all the registered facilities in the state.

“We both have daughters, and it was upsetting because you can imagine it happening to your own child — it was clear no one else was going to step up and do anything,” Palumbo said.

Gallegos has high hopes HB 3230 will have a positive impact.

“By creating statewide standards for community-based structured housing and unlicensed facilities through HB 3230, we hope to improve upon continuity of care and the safety of the facility residents and employees,” Gallegos said.

In an email statement sent on the afternoon of

july 22, Oney said the agency supports HB 3230.

“Luke-Dorf continues to support Bill 3230 along with the amendments to Section 2,” Oney wrote. “Our services to our local communities will not be affected by this bill or its amendments. Luke-Dorf will continue to provide behavioral health support for our 26 locations in the Portland metro area and to the hundreds of people who depend on our service.”

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