One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Part 2

“I thought I was reading the movie script for ‘Cuckoo’s Nest 2.”

This was the reaction of Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem when he receive the report from the Justice Department regarding the deplorable conditions at the Oregon State Hospital.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, of course, was filmed at the Oregon State Hospital 30 years ago.

The Justice Department documented incidents of patient-to-patient assaults, multiple suicide attempts by patients who were supposed to be on one-on-one monitoring, improper use of seclusion and restraints alongside mice in the rooms, outbreaks of norovirus and scabies and seclusion rooms where staff refused to clean up ‘messes.’

Courtney’s reaction, I think, was a bit flippant for such a horrible situation. Fortunately, he’d prefaced that comment with a more appropriate reaction at least partially in line with the crisis communication mantra of “tell it first, tell it fast, tell them what you’re going to to about it.”

“Whatever it takes, we will do,” Courtney said. “It’s a simple as that.”

Courtney is also launching a task force to provide information to the legislature on whether the hospital is complying with the requirements of the report.

The Justice Department’s report and the Senate President’s task force will, hopefully, require that an organization (the State Hospital) that has heretofore been very opaque be more transparent in its actions.

In circumstances where you may work with (or for) an organization that serves or must communicate with voiceless populations, transparency takes a top-to-bottom commitment. It is a challenge to ensure you’re hearing the voices of the voiceless.

There are few populations that have less of a voice than patients committed to a State Hospital. And it seems as if no one (not the legislature, not the hospital and not the activist group that originally filed suit) is getting the communication right. Each knew the report was forthcoming, yet appeared to be unprepared.

If you were representing the hospital, what would your next steps be?

Read more about the report here.

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