The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, March 30, 2017, Page 6A, Image 6

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Founded in 1873
DAVID F. PERO, Publisher & Editor
LAURA SELLERS, Managing Editor
BETTY SMITH, Advertising Manager
CARL EARL, Systems Manager
JOHN D. BRUIJN, Production Manager
DEBRA BLOOM, Business Manager
Proven leaders position
our hospitals for success
latsop County is in the fortunate position of having two
ambitious, high-achieving hospitals, but that doesn’t mean
all is well with our health care delivery system or that we
can afford complacency.
Last week’s Clatsop Economic Development Resources busi-
ness awards ceremony — in addition to being another enlighten-
ing reminder of how well-stocked we are with dynamic entrepre-
neurs — spotlighted the brilliant assets we possess in the form of
Providence Seaside and Clatsop Memorial hospitals. Both can
fairly be described as model rural
hospitals, especially in terms of
having parlayed connections with
We must
Portland to maximize services avail-
all continue
able here.
Nothing about modern American
health care runs on autopi-
together to
lot. Energetic medical staffs, dili-
make our
gent support systems and actively
engaged leadership all must func-
hospitals —
tion at top-tier competency, or else
and every
the whole enterprise begins to wob-
other vital
ble and shake apart. CMH and
Providence Seaside — as CEDR
aspect of
awards attendees were reminded —
each have chief executive officers
with reassuring levels of skill and
life —
community connections.
CMH’s Erik Thorsen has been at
the hospital for many years, stepping
into the top position after serving as
chief financial officer. Kendall Sawa
at Providence still is comparatively new to Seaside, but played
a significant role in leading Ocean Beach Hospital in Ilwaco,
Washington, out of a financial death spiral. He previously was a
hospital administrator in Alaska. Experience is no guarantee of
success in today’s challenging health care environment. But there
is no doubt our hospitals are far better positioned to succeed with
proven leaders than they would be without them.
Thorsen’s and Sawa’s remarks at CEDR were an illuminat-
ing seminar in just what a juggling act it is to run healthy hospi-
tals. Though both were circumspect in comments about feder-
al-level political battles over national health policies, it was clear
that long-term stability is highly desired when it comes to issues
like Medicare reimbursements, preservation of coordinated care
programs, and generally making certain local people receive con-
sistent, insured care. Prescription drug costs aren’t just a headache
for ordinary people, but really plague hospitals, which must buy
expensive pharmaceuticals on an industrial scale.
Using emergency rooms and urgent care for health care issues
— including mental illness — is problem here. Partly driven by a
shortage of primary-care physicians, resorting to ERs consumes
lots of resources. At the same time, residents who lack access to
more routine types of care obviously are at risk for chronic con-
ditions becoming worse and acute problems going too-long
It was good to be reminded by Sawa and Thorsen that their
hospitals have sought out ways to work together, eliminating
duplication where possible and finding areas in which to special-
ize. Working together on things like home health and hospice care
builds the potential for future collaborations. The hospitals’ mutu-
al-aid philosophy has even extended beyond county lines since
2012, with discussions including Tillamook and Columbia coun-
ties. CMH’s partnership with Oregon Health & Science University
and Seaside’s long-term affiliation with the Providence system
each pay big dividends in terms of making specialized services
available to our still-rural area.
It is an example that could be replicated by a variety of other
governmental and quasi-governmental agencies on the coast — if
there was ever a time when we could afford wasteful turf strug-
gles, that time is past. Here at the mouth of the Columbia River,
it would make sense for Oregon and Washington to develop
new legal frameworks to permit more interagency collaboration
between Clatsop, Pacific and Wahkiakum counties. It seems, for
example, like the excellent Naselle Youth Camp could in some
way be helpful to juvenile rehabilitation in Clatsop County, if only
the bureaucracies were willing to work together.
Physician recruitment and retention are a perennial problem
in all rural counties. But as the CEDR awards have made clear in
recent years, our decades of isolation are over. A more sophisti-
cated economy, coupled with advancements like better broadband
internet, can go a long way toward erasing objections to living
on this splendid coast. Making certain that our hospitals continue
to be financially and managerially stable is essential. We must
make certain elected leaders on all levels understand our abid-
ing interest in matters like lowering the cost of drugs, insurance
affordability, and lowering barriers to inter-county and interstate
We must all continue working together to make our hospitals
— and every other vital aspect of modern life — successful here.
This commitment is the most powerful tool we possess to elevate
and preserve the quality of life we so cherish.
State Department of Corrections
Inside the Deer Ridge Correctional Institution in Madras. The state has provided grants to counties to
help reduce prison use for drug and property crimes.
Public safety, not percentages
Special to The Daily Astorian
n journalism, research and trial
law, you learn that the questions
asked are as important, some-
times more so,
than the answers.
Recent articles in
The Daily Astorian
have discussed
a state program
called “justice
reinvestment” without asking some
pertinent questions.
One might assume from some of
the glossy graphs from Salem that
Clatsop County is sending a stun-
ningly high percentage of people to
A deeper dive shows otherwise.
On a statewide average, 24% of fel-
ons were sent to prison last year
following conviction. In Clatsop
County, that rate was 21%. Nine-
teen Oregon counties send fel-
ons to prison following conviction
at a higher rate than does Clatsop
Where Clatsop County’s prose-
cutors and judges are tougher is in a
smaller set of cases known as down-
ward departures. In these cases my
office will recommend giving the
offender a second (and often third,
fourth or fifth) chance by agree-
ing to probation — if the offender
will agree to serve a set num-
ber of months in prison (generally
less than 24) should a judge deter-
mine their probation is not properly
Clatsop County sends 14% of
its felons to prison in this manner, a
rate still lower than four other coun-
ties, including the most populous,
Judges are the only ones who can
send people to prison and are only
mandated to send felons to prison
for first-degree Measure 11 crimes
such as murder, manslaughter, sex-
ual abuse in the first degree, or rape
in the first degree. In 2008, prose-
cutors and Portland-area legislators
formed an unusual alliance to pass
a more sensible measure to beat out
Measure 61, which would have also
mandated prison terms for many
first-time burglars and car thieves.
Measure 57 was supported by
almost all of the state’s elected dis-
trict attorney’s, including myself.
My office
evaluates each
case — not
based on what
the data will
show at the
end of the year,
and hoping to
‘come up with
good numbers.’
The Legislature’s response?
They suspended Measure 57 at their
next regular session, claiming it
would cost too many prison beds.
Then in 2013, they hammered out
the justice reinvestment plan, again
rolling back portions of the mea-
sure. (Several legislators, like our
own state Sen. Betsy Johnson, did
not support crossing the voters.) In
theory, money that would not be
spent on state prison beds for sec-
ond-time home burglars or four-time
identity thieves, would be diverted
to the counties for local programs.
But justice reinvestment creates
a negative bounty, essentially pay-
ing parts of the justice system to not
send repeat property offenders and
drug dealers to prison.
Clatsop County felons often
chalk up four or five violations
before a judge says “enough” and
revokes their probation. Many fel-
ons struggle with addiction issues.
Efforts are made through Drug
Court and Mental Health Court,
in which my office participates, to
assist these people, allowing them
multiple fails.
Importantly, Salem is famous for
pushing unfunded mandates on local
governments. The justice reinvest-
ment dollars are likely to expire or
simply dry up in a couple of years.
Only a judge can decide to send
a felon to prison. We are fortunate
that our three Circuit Court judges
make good decisions.
So, when looking at the data
proffered by Salem, consider these
• How robust are the local Sher-
iff’s Office, Oregon State Police,
and local agencies? In Clatsop
County, they all do excellent work.
But the more felons they catch, the
more will be prosecuted. And, by
the way, the fewer honest citizens
will become victims of crime.
• Is there a local jail with avail-
able beds that could take some fel-
ons who might otherwise be sent
to the state prison? Not in Clatsop
• Does the county have a signifi-
cant tourist trade, or what we legally
call “transient population?” The
Daily Astorian reported recently that
42% of driving under the influence
of intoxicants defendants did not
live in Clatsop County.
My office carefully evaluates
each case — not based on what the
data will show at the end of the year,
and hoping to “come up with good
numbers.” We evaluate each case
person by person, considering both
the defendant and the victims, and
the resources available, and make
decisions based on public safety.
Joshua Marquis is the Clatsop
County district attorney.
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at 949 Exchange St. and 1555 N.
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Editor, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR