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The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism 2004-2005

Michelle Roberts
Reporter, The Oregonian
Portland, Ore., USA

Click here to read The Carter Center profile on Michelle Roberts

TOPIC: Write about the resiliency of children and how they can - and do - overcome trauma, abuse, and other mental health crises

Senator Fears Loss of Hospital
Peter Courtney urges legislators to act on problems at the Oregon State Hospital before it faces a federal lawsuit or a court seizure. Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney said Friday that conditions at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem are so appalling the institution is vulnerable to a federal lawsuit and possible takeover by the courts.

Oregon's High-Priced Hospital of Hurt
Oregon spends half of its annual $180 million budget for mental health on the Oregon State Hospital, an overcrowded, decrepit institution that serves less than 1 percent of patients who need psychiatric care.

Suit Brings Changes at Oregon State Hospital
The Oregon State Hospital has agreed to pay $200,000 to the family of a patient who died in 2001 when a group of hospital workers tackled him after a disagreement over soda pop, then tied him to a restraint bed while he was unconscious.

State Slips Put Teens on Streets
At least a third of street kids living in downtown Portland are current or former foster-care children who have been "dumped" by the state, according to a Portland Citizens Crime Commission report that will be released next month.

Years in the Shadows
The first patients arrived by train, shades drawn, in the dead of night. Almost 400 people -- their conditions attributed to everything from brain fever to broken hearts -- were shuttled into the Oregon State Insane Asylum under the cover of darkness.

Mother Sues County Over Death
A federal advocacy group has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Multnomah County and the state's largest mental health provider after a severely mentally ill woman was found dead in a motel bathtub shortly after being kicked out of her group home.

Senate Opens Talks on Mental Hospital
A Senate panel on Wednesday opened hearings into problems at the Oregon State Hospital, including discussion of whether the 121-year-old psychiatric facility should be torn down and replaced with a new hospital.

State Will Shut Down Youth Ward of Hospital
The Oregon Department of Human Services announced Wednesday that the state will shut down the adolescent treatment unit at the Oregon State Hospital, where as many as a dozen young patients were sexually abused by psychiatric aides from 1989 to 1994.

Indiginity's Shelf Will Not Remain Urns' Final Stop
By the early 1900s, thousands of mentally ill patients had died anonymously inside Oregon State Hospital in Salem. Today, the uncollected cremated remains of 3,490 of them are stored in corroding copper canisters. From ceiling to floor, they line dusty shelves near asbestos-abatement manuals kept in an abandoned hospital storage building.

Oregon Awards Contract on Fate of State Hospital
A San Francisco-based architectural firm with experience designing psychiatric hospitals has been awarded a state contract to study whether the Oregon State Hospital in Salem should be razed and replaced, Department of Human Services officials announced Friday.

Some Sex Charges Dismissed After Witness's Prison Suicide
Multnomah County prosecutors on Thursday asked a judge to dismiss sex abuse charges against four men, including a former youth authority worker and a state foster home provider because their alleged victim killed himself.

State Failed to Heed Abuse Warnings
Aaron Munoz was born addicted to heroin and died in a prison cell. On Jan. 28, at age 21, he hanged himself with a bedsheet at the Oregon State Penitentiary. He was despondent, he told his family, because his youth probation officer had sexually abused him for years. After Munoz's suicide, his family said they had complained repeatedly to state juvenile department supervisors about the probation officer, Michael Lee Boyles.

Long Lost Face Found in State's Dark Corner
She was the grandmother no one ever talked about. Ben Tabler knew nothing about her -- or the rest of his father's relatives, for that matter. It was as though a cataclysmic event had erased the Tabler family history.

Youth Authority Plans Inquiry
Oregon Youth Authority officials said Monday they have asked a group of child advocates and justice professionals to "thoroughly and independently" investigate how the agency handled warnings of abuse involving a probation officer who later was charged with molesting five boys on his caseload.

Study Finds Foster Care May Foster Lifelong Ills
Adults who had been children in foster care later suffer post-traumatic stress disorder twice as often as U.S. war veterans.

Senate: No More Hush Money
Lawmakers unanimously passed a bill to ban public agencies from agreeing to secret settlements, as once done with an abuse victim.

Report: Tear Down Hospital
The Oregon State Hospital must be replaced and one building for patients would likely collapse in an earthquake, a study says.

Report: Agency Cites Lapses in Abuse Case
An independent panel investigating the Oregon Youth Authority has determined that 'several stages of breakdown' led to the failure of agency officials to act on warnings of abuse involving a probation officer later charged with molesting five boys on his caseload.

'Now I'm Really Scared of Them'
Testifying against adoptive parents, Kayla Nickel, 11, describes a life of hunger and violence. A girl who prosecutors allege was nearly starved to death by a couple who adopted her from the state foster care system testified Wednesday that her adoptive father once held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her after she tried to sneak a piece of pizza.

Foster Parents Found Guilty of Starving Girl
A Marion County Circuit Court judge on Friday found a Salem couple guilty of nearly starving to death a child they adopted from the state foster care system. Tammy and Christopher Nickel, both 33, did not visibly react as they were convicted of three counts each of felony criminal mistreatment for withholding medical treatment and for failing to provide adequate and necessary physical care to their adopted daughter, Kayla.

Gordly Seeks Federal Investigation of State Hospital
State Sen. Avel Gordly, D-Portland, called for a federal investigation Thursday to examine possible civil rights violations of current and former patients at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem.

Fierce Spirit Lifts Child From Abuse to Health
When authorities rescued Kayla Nickel a month before her 10th birthday in December 2003, the girl weighed 261/2 pounds and was near death, curled in a fetal position beneath her bed.

'Idol' Dreams
Tracy Moore, hair dyed electric blue, strides confidently into a conference room at Los Angeles' Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and faces down the toughest talent scout in the entertainment industry - American Idol's Simon Cowell.

How Oregon Fails Disabled Adults ("After Fairview", Special Report) (link no longer available)
The 9-1-1 operator asked the question several times: Is she breathing? David Pape, the woman's caregiver, didn't hesitate. "Yes, she's breathing," he said. "And she's warm."

Caregiver's Approach: 'How Would I Want to Live?' ("After Fairview", Special Report) (link no longer available)
Thanks to Jenny Veenker, five developmentally disabled adults have a loving home in a suburban split-level made beautiful with paint and care. On a recent fall evening, one of Veenker's clients pours coffee at a granite-topped kitchen island. Another helps his wife of 25 years - both are mentally retarded - pull on a sweater.

Fairview's Troubled History Forces Oregon to Rethink How It Cares for the Developmentally Disabled ("After Fairview", Special Report) (link no longer available)
The construction in 1908 of Fairview Training Center, originally named the State Institution for the Feeble-Minded, reflected the most progressive thinking of the time. Family doctors almost always advised parents of children born with developmental disabilities to send them away. The common attitude: They were better off living with their own kind.

State Pledges Better Care for Disabled ("After Fairview", Special Report) (link no longer available)
Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Friday called for swift reforms in the state's care system for people with developmental disabilities, and key Oregon lawmakers said they would make the issue a priority in February's special legislative session. The push comes after The Oregonian reported that at least one of every five adult clients in state-licensed foster or group homes have been victims of serious abuse or neglect since 2000, the year the state closed its primary residential institution for the developmentally disabled, the Fairview Training Center in Salem.

For Tony Alamo Survivors, Religious Abuse Scars the Soul
It's been 23 years since Diane Bach left the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Arkansas, but she still struggles to make decisions for herself. As a St. Helens waitress hands Bach a menu during a recent lunch meeting, she swallows hard. Her hands begin to tremble; she shifts uncomfortably in her chair. Soon, she's sweating and red blotches pool on her chest like spilled wine.

Cornyn Calls for Hearings on Recruiter Suicides (link no longer available)
Sen. John Cornyn on Thursday called for a congressional hearing on suicides among Army recruiters, saying a recent group of deaths in an East Texas battalion show the strain on an all-volunteer force fighting two wars. While an Army investigation attributed the four suicides over three years in the Houston Recruiting Battalion to a combination of the work environment, stress and personal issues, Cornyn said investigators found the Army was violating its own regulations by pressuring recruiters to meet individual recruiting goals that are higher than allowed.

Army General to Investigate Recruiter Suicides
The Army has agreed to investigate a disproportionate cluster of suicides among recruiters in an East Texas battalion, as well as allegations by other soldiers and family members that they were pressured to cover up serious problems in the battalion, Army Secretary Pete Geren said. Seventeen Army recruiters have committed suicide nationwide since 2001, but four of them were from the Houston Recruiting Battalion, which recruits soldiers from East Texas. A fifth Houston-area soldier killed himself, but he was assigned to the Army's Future Soldier Training Program.

IQ Test Maker, Worried about Misuse in Wrong Hands, Wants eBay to Restrict Sales of Tests (link no longer available)
Intelligence tests widely used in the United States to help determine the competence of criminal defendants and the placement of students are for sale on eBay Inc.'s online auction site, and the test maker is worried they will be misused. The series of Wechsler intelligence tests, made by San Antonio-based Harcourt Assessment Inc., is supposed to be sold to and administered only by clinical psychologists and trained professionals.

Louisiana Suicides Down in Months Following Katrina (link no longer available)
Suicides were down in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. State officials say the number in the months after the devastating storm was lower than in the previous year.

Practitioners of Ancient Healing Arts Help Care for Veterans
When Albert Laughter unpacks his medical supplies preparing to treat the military veterans who are his patients he finds no stethoscope or thermometer. His examination room doesn't have walls to speak of. It is made of canvas and wooden poles a teepee with a small fire ring inside. His supplies -- pheasant and eagle feathers cornmeal sage and other herbs -- come wrapped in small leather pouches.

Why Treatment Is Critical for Youth With Mental Illness
There are moments, seemingly ordinary at the time, that later have the power to alter your entire life course. For me, one of those moments occurred more than 13 years ago while working as a journalist in Portland, Ore.

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