Dick Branton was interviewed by Bill Schneider and Karen Brewster on June 11, 2009 at his home in Wasilla, Alaska. He began his career in law enforcement before Alaska became a state. He moved into work with the Department of Corrections for the State of Alaska and developing programs to reform and rehabilitate prisoners. Eventually, he served as Deputy Director for the state's Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities where he helped promote cross training between mental health providers and corretions staff in order to best help mental health patients with criminal backgrounds. In this interview, Dick discusses his career and accomplishments, his work with delivery of mental health services in Alaska and how this has changed over the years, and the effects of the mental health trust lands battle and lawsuit. The interview continues in part two.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Alaska Mental Health Trust History
Date of Interview: Jun 11, 2009
Narrator(s): Dick Branton
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
People Present: Alice Branton
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Section 1: Personal background, coming to Alaska, getting married and raising a family.
Section 2: The development of Alaska's Department of Corrections and seeing the need for mental health services for prisoners.
Section 3: Close connections between the correctional and mental health institutions.
Section 4: His educational background that led him into the mental health field, and discussion about how patients might be committed to Morningside Hospital.
Section 5: The beginnings of mental health facilities and services in Alaska.
Section 6: The building of Harborview Hospital in Valdez and establishment of a residential program for the developmentally disabled.
Section 7: Establishing the residential treatment program for the developmentally disabled at Harborview Hospital in Valdez, Alaska.
Section 8: Development of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and McLaughlin Youth Center in Anchorage, Alaska.
Section 9: Development of the laws and procedures for involuntary hospitalization, and shifts in mental health services to the development of community-based care.
Section 10: Treatment of prisoners with mental illness, and changes in the law regarding use of an insanity as a legal defense.
Section 11: Treatment of mental illness versus criminal behavior, how the law applies to court cases, and examination of patients at Morningside Hospital in Portland, Oregon and getting them brought home.
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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
Section 1: BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, today is June 11th, 2009, and I'm Bill Schneider, and Karen Brewster's here, too. And today we have the pleasure of doing an interview with Dick Branton. And his wife Alice is here, and their cat Dozer, so if we hear Dozer purring, that's what is in the background. So, Dick, thank you for taking the time to do this. DICK BRANTON: My pleasure.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And what we usually do in interviews like this is ask people to give us a little bit of background information about their family, where they grew up and their parents and their personal background before we actually get into their involvement with what we're talking about today, which is the development of mental health services.
DICK BRANTON: Okay. Well, I'm glad to. Actually, I was born in a little town, coastal city of Myrtle Point, Oregon, which is sort of the southern part of Oregon. And I grew up as an Army brat. And in 1949, my father, who was a agricultural engineer, accepted a position as the agricultural engineer for the experimental station here in Palmer.
So myself and my older brother and my sister and my mother and I all traveled up the Alaska Highway in 1949, when it was much different than it is now, and we arrived in Alaska. And I graduated from high school in Palmer High School.
So I've been here about 60 years. My ‑‑ my wife was an Oregonian that I met while I was going to college, Oregon State, it was Oregon State College then, rather than Oregon State University.
And she came up here about 10 years after I did, and she came up here to ‑‑ actually to go to work for a developer who was opening up a ‑‑ a hotel/motel operation in Fairbanks. And she came up to ‑‑ to play organ in the ‑‑ at a ‑‑ well, it wasn't a bar, it wasn't even a nightclub, it was just a ‑‑ an afternoon type of a ‑‑ of a, you know, have a glass of wine type of thing.
The fellow's name was Walter Hickel. And anyway, I had known Alice when I was in school, and so after a period of time, well, we got married. So that's the story. And I had ‑‑ I'd been married previously, my first wife had died, and so I had a daughter, and then ‑‑ and her name is Barbara and she currently lives in Fairbanks.
And then Alice and I, after we were married, had another child, a daughter, her name was Terri, and she married a lifelong Alaskan in Juneau, and she and her husband, Darrin Fagerstrom, who just two days ago won the spring salmon derby. ALICE BRANTON: Third place.
DICK BRANTON: Third place. So anyway, and she and her husband Darrin and our two grandchildren continue to live in Juneau. So ‑‑ so that's kind of briefly, you know, who I was and what I did, and of course, was an Army brat before we came up here. Well, we've traveled behind my ‑‑ my dad all over the United States.
Section 2: BILL SCHNEIDER: Are we back on? KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. BILL SCHNEIDER: And what jobs did you hold? How did you ‑‑ DICK BRANTON: Well, what happened was that at Statehood, in the state of Alaska, the new state of Alaska found themselves confronted with an issue that was interesting because we had no criminal justice system in the state of Alaska because at that time, if you were a felon prisoner, meaning you were sentenced to serve more than one year, you were a federal prisoner.
And there were ‑‑ some of the larger cities had a local enforcement, but most of the law enforcement was done by territorial troopers and marshals and this sort of thing. So they were having some hearings right after ‑‑ well, it was before Statehood, they were just having some hearings about some of these issues, and I went to those hearings.
And so after Statehood, they realized that we had to do something about that. So I got involved with the what was called then the Youth and Adult Authority, which was the ‑‑ the program that was to eventually become what is now the department, I think it's a full department now of corrections.
And the Constitution of the state says that there should be a system of corrections and it should be premised on reformation and rehabilitation. And the significance of that is that it removes the likelihood that the sheriff's office or the police or the ‑‑ that group of people that are doing the apprehension would be running any kind of a detention program because they are the apprehenders.
And ‑‑ and my background was mental health, so I got involved with this because they were looking for people that could, in fact, be channeling their energies into how you develop programs that will reform and rehabilitate rather than just lock people up or punishment.
So I was called to go to work for the then Youth and Adult Authority in 1960, and that was September 1960. And by 1965, it became apparent that I needed to be in Juneau, which was the center of government, because the activities that I was involved with, I was much more involved in the administrative part of the development of a state system of corrections.
So my wife and I and family transferred down to Juneau. And the long and the short of that was that I worked for the department of ‑‑ or the Department of Health and Social Services at that time, and the Division of Youth and Adult Authority, which then became the ‑‑ let's see. I don't remember exactly how it all evolved, but the children's services program in the Department of Health and Social Services decided that they should run the juvenile corrections program.
So they took over the juvenile, and then it became the Adult Authority, the corrections, and that's where it went from the Youth and Adult Authority to the department ‑‑ or the Division of Corrections. And I worked for them for almost 17 years. And I decided that I probably had had about enough of that and so I resigned.
But during the time that I worked for that program, I worked very closely with the mental health program and became very familiar with that because first, if you look at the rehabilitation and reformation issue, and many, many, many of the people that were incarcerated were people who were in need of mental health care, and so there was a close exchange over the time of the development of that program.
And so when I resigned, I was given an opportunity the day, effective date of my resignation, to go over and go to work in the mental health program. So I resigned from the Division of Corrections one day and on Friday, and on Monday, well, I was in the administrative and operational part of the Central Office of mental health.
So I didn't get much of a break. So I stayed then for mental health for ‑‑ and that was in 1976, yes.
Section 3: BILL SCHNEIDER: So you -- we were talking about your taking on the position in the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. DICK BRANTON: Uh‑hum. And so I was ‑‑ I was there for 10 years before I retired.
And one of the interesting things about the executive levels of government are that you serve at the pleasure of the governor, but in some of the programs, the appointment of a ‑‑ a person to head them is a little sticky because it needs somebody with the right professional qualifications and so on and so forth.
So the directorship of the mental health program was a fully exempt position, but there just weren't a lot of doctors that were interested in doing that.
So they developed a position which was the deputy. So I was the deputy to contain the memory, if you will, and the continuities of the program. So as directors came and went, well, I was the touchstone that kept the program going.
So anyway, I ‑‑ I moved over there and ‑‑ and it was a very easy movement for me because I had worked very closely with the top level people during the time that I was in corrections.
And we, in fact, developed some cross‑training programs where we would ‑‑ the state hospital, API, would oftentimes have people committed that were committed because of some criminal behavior or something like this, and mentally ill people, just because they are mentally ill doesn't preclude them, you know, having criminal behaviors.
And the ‑‑ by the statute, the director of mental health and the director of corrections in each speak to the incarceration of people. So we could move prisoners from the jail to the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, or we could move patients from the Alaska Psychiatric Institute to the jail. So sometimes people would benefit by cross‑therapy.
So I was very familiar with the programs. And I shared office space at one point in time when they were doing some remodeling, and so for a period of time I shared office space with the head office of mental health in Juneau. So I had an opportunity to share the issues that were going on, and so we were trying to develop a correctional system and mental health was trying to develop a program of institutions and this sort of thing.
So there was a lot of supportive thinking that we shared. So it was very easy for me to move back from one institutional development setting to another.
And it was very interesting to me because some of the same issues were involved because there were mental health patients who were being held in hospital and treatment settings outside the state of Alaska, as well as we had Alaska residents who were in federal prisons Outside.
And as we began to develop prisons or, if you will, correctional institutions in Alaska, we began moving these prisoners back to the state, and the mental health program at the same time was ‑‑ was looking into moving their patients back to the state. So there was a lot of similarities that were going on. So that was the sort of the story about where I was fitting into the matrix.
Section 4: BILL SCHNEIDER: Let's back up, then, and ask that question about your background. DICK BRANTON: Well ‑‑ BILL SCHNEIDER: What prepared you for that? DICK BRANTON: When I was in school in Oregon State, and Oregon State basically is an agricultural engineering college, or university. And they didn't offer very many liberal arts type classes, but they did have a sprinkling of them.
And so I was in the ‑‑ actually in the School of Business Administration, but I had ample opportunity to take a lot of electives. So I took all their elective classes in behavioral issues and found that I was ‑‑ that was where my interest really lay.
So although I graduated, my degree was a degree in Business Administration, and just for the fun of it, because I was an Alaskan, I also took a minor in geology, which is a long ways from mental health, but sometimes you need to listen to the rocks; they tell a story, too.
But so my degree was there and ‑‑ but I was very interested in behavioral issues, so I, as I say, I took all these elective courses that I could and this sort of thing. But then after graduation, I took additional courses that I did not receive a doctorate degree, but I just ‑‑ you know, the farther you get into it, well, the more interest you have, and so that was my background.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And then we were talking about the history of the development of services when Morningside closed down. And the development of a state program. DICK BRANTON: Okay. Well, I think it might be helpful to go back as to how ‑‑ how the patients arrived where they were.
And under the territorial process, there were legal persons appointed as magistrates. And these magistrates were officers of the court.
And if a person was exhibiting a bizarre behavior, or sometimes just was an annoyance to their neighbor, I mean, it was ‑‑ it was a pretty undefined line, but a presentation of this body before a magistrate who had absolutely no background necessarily in any kind of medical training or anything else,
and a person could be drug before the magistrate, if you will, and an accusation made that this person is acting in this weird and unnatural way. And when that happened, the magistrate would then declare the person mentally ill, and they could order them, you know, confined.
And the same procedure essentially was there for the developmentally disabled. And of course, in many cases for the developmentally disabled, it was much more obvious and there was ‑‑ especially if it was a fairly young person, you know, say three month old or something like that and was exhibiting very physical issues of developmental disability,
but there was no -- no real line drawn between those people who were mentally ill and those people who are developmentally disabled. So that was the early matrix. And that had been going on forever, so to speak. It was not until the ‑‑ oh, gosh, I'm going to say the early '70s that we really began to recognize and separate out the developmentally disabled from the mentally ill.
Section 5: But anyway, into this matrix of developmentally disabled/mentally ill, the Federal Government was not real happy in having their magistrates order confinement because the Federal Government, if they ordered the confinement, were required to have to pay the bill. And so finances began to involve in it.
So the Federal Government said to the state that ‑‑ and this was actually the territory, it was before Statehood, and they said, look at, we don't want these people that are mentally ill and all in our federal institutions so we have to take care of them, we'd like you, the Territory of Alaska, to figure out how to take care of your own.
So what we'll do, we'll give you the opportunity to select a million acres of land because all the land was essentially federal land, we'll give you an opportunity to select a million acres of land and we'll give you a bunch of money.
And you can take this money and you can build yourself some institutions of your own and you can support these institutions with the money that this land will generate. You can sell it, you can rent it, you can mine it, whatever you want to do with it.
So the State of Alaska, or the Territory of Alaska said that was fine, and they took the money and they started the planning for what eventually became the Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage.
And the ‑‑ the new Governor of Statehood, Bill Egan, was from Valdez, and he was the local political touchstone from Valdez that suddenly found himself as governor, and he intentionally or ‑‑ or just because it happened that way, was very interested in channeling money and state programs into the Valdez area because they really didn't have a big economic base in Valdez at that time.
So if we fast forward at Statehood and a little beyond, the ‑‑ they had to have somebody running the program for the mental health and developmentally disabled. And I believe that the first director was Dr. J. Ray Langdon, who ‑‑ the psychiatrist.
And so there were two things that happened kind of simultaneously. One of them was that he brought on board a fairly well‑known psychiatrist by the name of Carl Bowman. And Dr. Carl Bowman was put in charge of developing in the construction of API, or Alaska Psychiatric Institute, which was being financed out of this money that the territory had received.
And so the story goes, and I can't verify this, but the story goes that the governor called up J. Ray Langdon and said we ‑‑ we need to have a facility in Valdez. And they had a hospital down in Valdez.
And so he said, J. Ray, go pick up some land down there and we'll build a facility down there for mentally ill or developmentally disabled or whatever.
So J. Ray Langdon, in fact, did go to Valdez and looked at the old hospital, which was not ‑‑ it was a usable hospital, and I'm not sure what the background of that hospital was, but I ‑‑ there's a possibility that it may have been originally built in territorial times for ‑‑ as a TB sanitarium. But I don't know that. But anyway, there was a fairly large hospital there, much larger than you'd expect.
Section 6: So the plan was to separate out the developmentally disabled from the mentally ill and to build a residential treatment program for the developmentally disabled in Valdez, which was what eventually became Harborview Hospital, and the mentally ill would go to the newly constructed Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage.
So that was the first real separation that was being made of the developmentally disabled from the mentally ill in the ‑‑ as far as the division was operating.
The sort of follow through with Harborview, then, the construction and remodeling of the old hospital into what was to become the residential program for the developmentally disabled was ‑‑ was fairly well completed, but it wasn't totally done when the earthquake in 1964 hit.
And so it totally destroyed, because this was all over in Old ‑‑ what they called Old Town, and it totally destroyed the hospital facility. And so the Federal Government then came up with money, and I ‑‑ I'll give a name to the act, but it probably was not what the act was really called, but it was the ‑‑ something like the ‑‑ the Earthquake Relief Act or something like that.
And it made federal money available to the state to repair and replace state facilities that had been destroyed by the earthquake.
And one of the caveats, like all federal money, there's always a string on it, the ‑‑ one of the caveats was that you couldn't use the money to build a remarkably different ‑‑ differently utilized structure.
So what happened was when they needed to rebuild in Valdez, but remember it was a hospital and not a residential program because it had not been fully converted, so the new Harborview facility was built, it was designed and built with this federal money, but adjacent to it and attached immediately to it is a ‑‑ I believe it's a 14 ‑‑ I want to say 14 or 16‑bed hospital.
So it became the Harborview Hospital and developmental disability residential program. So that sort of is the mystery, people often say, well, why do we have a hospital connected to the residential program. And that was a contentious issue because people ‑‑ excuse me I'll put the cat up. (Pause in interview.)
BILL SCHNEIDER: So we were talking about this contentious issue. DICK BRANTON: Yeah. It was a contentious issue because the parents of these people who were developmentally disabled were concerned ‑‑ concerned that we were treating them like they were sick, and you know, we have a hospital, you know, and you know, that was an imposing hospital.
Why are we building a hospital. And the reason, as I said, we built the hospital because of the letter of the law required us to. So that was the story about how Harborview actually got built.
Section 7: Now, up until we had Harborview built, our developmentally disabled persons were being sent outside just like we had sent our prisoners outside, and they were being sent, most of them, to the state of Oregon and to Baby Haven ‑‑ ALICE BRANTON: Baby Louise Haven. DICK BRANTON: Baby Louise Haven and Haven Acres were two of the facilities out there.
And these were ‑‑ were facilities that were privately operated. And they were ‑‑ at that time, the ‑‑ there was a fairly prevalent philosophy about developmentally disabled, especially if they were severely involved, that said that these ‑‑ these people won't live very long.
And so many of them never left the delivery room. And those that did weren't supposed to live very long. And so the programs were essentially programs for very youthful people.
Well, the problem was these people didn't die, and so throughout the United States, there was a real issue of developmentally disabled adults who were these children that ‑‑ that didn't pass away prematurely.
So we had people that were at all levels out in these facilities outside, and these facilities outside were ‑‑ we talk about Baby Louise Haven and this sort of thing but they weren't necessarily full of babies. Some of these people were older.
There was also a big issue that there was a lot of social stigma attached to the developmentally disabled. And the ‑‑ it served a good social purpose for many families to have their DD family member out of state and out of mind.
And as an example, I recall we had a DD resident whose parents were rather prestigious in the Anchorage social set, and they were very happy having their child out of state and out of mind. And they were very resistant to the idea that we might have a facility that we would bring their child back to the state of Alaska.
So there was all this turbulence going on. But nonetheless, we ‑‑ we did send a team outside that screened the people that were out there, and these people, although they were developmentally disabled, they certainly have not lost their civil rights. So they had some say so in whether they wanted to move back or not.
But we did start moving them back, and we moved back a number of them to Harborview Hospital and Treatment Center, or actually just became Harborview, we called it, in Valdez. And that was the ‑‑ the way that that came into being.
One of the things that was interesting about it was that it ‑‑ Valdez was a ‑‑ was a relatively small town and remained that way, and when the Alaska pipeline issue came along, we really had a concern about staffing because it takes a fairly rich staffing pattern when you're providing 24/7 care to people that are oftentimes unable to take care of their own needs.
Well, the state built housing down in Valdez for state employees, and in Valdez, at that time, the Department of Highways had a major regional operation in Valdez, as well as Harborview. So there was a real clamor for housing for the pipeline.
And the deal was that a lot of people would say, well, let's go to Valdez, and Hilda, you can go to work for the developmentally disability facility over at Harborview, and that will give us housing, and I'm going to go work on the pipeline.
So the big labor crunch that a lot of organizations were feeling, we didn't feel, because we had housing and people were clamoring to ‑‑ to live in our housing and go ‑‑ and have one member of the family unit go to work to qualify for the housing, and the rest of them were working on the pipeline. So that was how we got through the pipeline criteria.
BILL SCHNEIDER: When you say "we," I'm assuming you were intimately involved. DICK BRANTON: I was involved with that from time to time, and the ‑‑ the person that ‑‑ that I replaced when I actually transferred over into the mental health issue, and I went in '78. So yeah, I ‑‑ you know, some of this I was involved with and some of it was just tangentially, but a fellow by the name of Mason McLean was the person who was the deputy or I don't remember what.
They changed titles more than they changed people, as you know. Don't give them more money, give them a different title. BILL SCHNEIDER: All right. DICK BRANTON: So ‑‑ so ‑‑ and we were sharing office space, so it was, you know, no biggie. BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh‑hum. DICK BRANTON: So that was kind of briefly the story of ‑‑
BILL SCHNEIDER: Of moving the people? DICK BRANTON: ‑‑ of moving the people and establishing Harborview, and actually beginning to say the developmentally disabled are not necessarily in need of the acute hospital care, they needed the residential and training and vocational programming.
Section 8: BILL SCHNEIDER: And I assume at that same time API was ‑‑ DICK BRANTON: Okay. At the same time, API was opening and was open, and let's talk about the earthquake era. And it was a very newly opened, and Carl Bowman was an advocate of some ‑‑ a lobotomy, that's a category, a type of surgeries for certain types of mental illness.
So one of the things that he insisted on when API was being put together was that they have a full surgery, which, to the best of my knowledge, aside from one or two rather minor things that happened there, became nothing more than a storage area. It was never used that way. Carl left and there was lots of other reasons to not ‑‑ not do that.
And of course, Providence Hospital, the Sisters of Providence moved their hospital from over on ‑‑ was it on Eleventh ‑‑ Ninth, Eleventh, whichever it was, they closed that down and started building their hospital. When the land was picked for API, it was fairly well out in the sticks. It was ‑‑ there wasn't much development out there.
And I looked, I had a photo that we had taken that I don't know where ‑‑ I've got it somewhere in my files, but you'd be amazed at how remote that was, because we did not want that. And the reason I say "we," again, because at the same time that they were looking for land there, the correctional system was looking for land to build a juvenile facility, which became McLaughlin Youth Center.
And it was determined that there was some similarities in terms of outdoor recreational, you know, uses like outdoor track and this sort of thing that people of API might be utilizing, as well as the ‑‑ so there was, again, a coordination of effort between the correctional system and the mental health system.
And so McLaughlin Youth Center, we were looking for land that was, you know, somewhere adjacent to the courts but ‑‑ but out of town. We didn't want a youthful offender facility in the middle of town. And they didn't want a hospital for the mentally ill in the middle of town. So again, we were looking at the same land, and today, if you look there, there they are, next to each other. But it was all vacant land then.
So anyway, API then, during the earthquake, sustained very little damage, and here we were, it was basically a fully functional hospital with ‑‑ we had a huge commissary or storage area for food and this sort of thing, and so it was one of the major potential safe ‑‑ safe locations during the earthquake. You know, if we needed to have people go and all.
Section 9: So API was involved in the earthquake in that way, and all, but it ‑‑ the processes by which people were getting in and out of facilities began to change, and so in the early '70s ‑‑ and Dr. Schrader (phonetic) can fill this in very clearly for you, I'm sure, but there's always been a lot of controversy about mentally ill people and whether they needed to have someone assist them in getting help.
In other words, involuntarily hospitalizing them and this sort of thing. And so the ‑‑ that process was always pretty loose about how that was happening.
And people ‑‑ one of the things that was happening was that people that were mentally ill, there were not a lot of psychiatrists in Alaska in those days, and those few that were around would ‑‑ would treat people that were mentally ill, but eventually, in most cases, the mentally ill ran out of resources, financial resources.
And so by the time they would run out of resources, well, the private sector would say, well, we can't ‑‑ I can't afford to do this. So they would refer them over to the ‑‑ to API and they would get, one way or another, admitted into API, but it was always a pretty loosey‑goosey process of how a patient arrived at API.
And so we went to the Attorney General Office and said, you know, we're concerned about our ‑‑ our laws here for involuntary hospitalization, and the Attorney General's Office looked at it and said, well, we are not going to issue this, you know, and I don't know that we ever got a written opinion, but we were told that probably our processes that we were using at that time were unconstitutional.
And so we had to write some ‑‑ some new laws and implement them for involuntary hospitalization. And that then became the way that many of the ‑‑ of the chronically ill patients that were coming into API arrived there, it was involuntary, and if they were long‑term patients that were in and out, which often was the case,
but mentally ill people often times are stabilized and do very well with their medications, but for several reasons, the side effects of the medications, the ‑‑ just all these reasons all put together, they say I don't need to take my meds anymore, and so they quit taking their meds, and as soon as they do, well, they begin to revert back to their acute behaviors.
So you'd have a lot of recidivism, if you will, patients that come in and out of the hospital. So the ‑‑ we had this hospital operation going, and then the Federal Government came along with what they called the Community Mental Health Centers Act. And the Community Mental Health Centers Act was federal money that helped support the development of community oriented delivery programs for care for the mentally ill.
So you began to have programs like the Anchorage Community Mental Health Center. There was a lot of these municipal programs that began to develop. And there the thrust of those programs was to support mentally ill people in their own communities.
And they then began to utilize local hospital beds for temporary hospitalization of mentally ill people. And if they ‑‑ there were people that were going to probably require long‑term hospital care, then the community mental health centers would transfer these people out of the local hospital settings into API, or Alaska Psychiatric Institute.
In today's world, most hospitals in major, you know, metropolitan hospitals in Alaska now have mental health wards where they can provide hospital care for the mentally ill, which has taken a lot of the previously API patient load and moved, and spread it throughout the state.
And the new hospital, and I have really not stayed on top of ‑‑ they rebuilt or made a new hospital, a new API here that they opened fairly recently, and I think it has probably between half and two‑thirds of the number of beds that the old API had because the projected demand for state-operated hospital beds has just diminished, the communities are taking care of that in the private sector.
And I say the private sector, not all hospitals are private hospitals, but the non‑state operated hospitals.
Section 10: So that's how API is operating. And of course, we found when we started to move patients back from the South 48 just like the developmentally disabled, we found that we had long‑term care patients that were out and going back through that process, the DD persons went to Baby Louise Haven, or whatever, and if you were a mentally ill, you went to Morningside.
And Morningside was the hospital in Salem. And I don't know that many people think about this, but Morningside was a privately operated hospital. It was not a state operated hospital in Oregon.
And there was a tremendous amount of controversy that took place when the state of Oregon decided they wanted to build a state hospital because the operators of Morningside, which was a private operation, were opposed to that. And the state should never be in that business and all.
So again, there's a lot of similarities to the state of Oregon and the state of Alaska in terms of how the hospital got built. And they had the same issues with their hospitalization process. Oregon was pretty loosey‑goosey about how things were happening, and who got into Morningside and who didn't.
And we got ready to bring people back, and we found out that we had people down there who we used to call them a plea of insanity that were charged with crimes, and insanity was a defense. And so these were ‑‑ were people who were determined to have been insane, whatever that word might mean, and as a defense against a crime they had committed, and so they were committed to a hospital.
And so they were being sent out to Morningside. And Morningside didn't really know that these people were there because of this criminal behavior, so we started bringing them back, and we had ‑‑ at one time I think that we had nine ‑‑ nine patients, I believe was the number, that we had at API who were essentially serving a life sentence because they had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
And they were, you know, if they were insane, how would they become un‑insane. That process wasn't very clear about, yeah, we can determine what insanity might be, but we don't know what un‑insanity might look like. So these people essentially were doing life, you know, as patients in mental health hospitals.
And we did get that law changed, and now the law is guilty but mentally ill. And so if you are in a process ‑‑ of the not ‑‑ or guilty but mentally ill, so let's say that you are involved in a ‑‑ a crime of murder, and you're found guilty but mentally ill, you might serve ‑‑ you're sentenced to 99 years, and you might serve 10 or 12 or 15 years in a hospital, in API, as a matter of fact.
But at some point in time, there's going to be a medical examination done and they are going to say that your, quote, insanity has now been controlled, and so instead of serving your time, the rest of the time in the hospital, you will then be transferred to a correctional institution.
So, a plea of guilty but mentally ill doesn't change the length of sentence that you might receive from the court. So a person receiving a sentence for guilty but mentally ill merely says that we're going to give you a sentence to serve because of your guilt, and some of that may be served in a treatment facility for the mentally ill, but in any event, you're going to go from the mentally ill treatment program into a state correctional facility until your sentence is served.
So that changes the whole picture of what went on. So aside from those people, and I honestly don't know now, there's a possibility probably that there may be one or two people still at API that were ‑‑ that were criminally insane, but I ‑‑ I don't know that. I have no idea.
Section 11: BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, that's ‑‑ that's really amazing. So there were people, then, that were transferred from API back to jail, or to jail? DICK BRANTON: Well, not ‑‑ not until we got that guilty but mentally ill law passed. Up until that time, there were people that were not guilty by reason of insanity that were serving time or treatment out in Morningside, that when API opened up, moved from Morningside back to API.
And they didn't really have any clue at Morningside that these people were criminally involved; they were just mentally ill, as far as Morningside was concerned. BILL SCHNEIDER: But just a clarification here. So at API, then, if there's a medical examination of one of those patients and it's determined that they no longer are mentally insane ‑‑ DICK BRANTON: Mentally ill, yes. BILL SCHNEIDER: Mentally ill.
DICK BRANTON: They can then transfer out of there and they are sent to a state prison, because the court has sentenced them to an incarceration, if you will, for a period of time, and whether they are incarcerated in the treatment facility or in the jail, the court could care less. BILL SCHNEIDER: Even though they may have committed the crime because of their mental illness. DICK BRANTON: That's correct.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And that's still the case? DICK BRANTON: And that's what the law says today. And that's why you very seldom ever hear of anybody as a defense against a criminal behavior saying that this person was ‑‑ you'll hear we'll need this person examined because they were under some sort of duress and may have had, you know, some reason of mental illness involvement to commit a crime, but they don't plea ‑‑ very few attorneys will then say, so the defense is that we want a defense of insanity.
You know, they may say, these are extenuating circumstances of how my client was ‑‑ and the mental state of my client when the crime was committed, but they won't say, therefore, I want my client ‑‑ we're pleading, you know, insanity. BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.
DICK BRANTON: So it changed the way the courts and the whole way the law is carried out. Because there's no longer a way to escape the incarceration. Because technically, before, if you were ‑‑ if you were not guilty by reason of insanity and somebody would certify that the insanity disappeared, you were free. So remarkable differences.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. While we're on that issue, people were treated from Morningside, can you speak in general terms about how that went? DICK BRANTON: Well, in general terms, the ‑‑ there were a lot of these people who had been there for a long period of time and wanted to remain there.
They ‑‑ you know, they ‑‑ again, they had certain civil rights, and they ‑‑ they had been living down there maybe for years. Some of these people were chronically mentally ill. And some of them, when we began screening them, were people that we said don't need to be hospitalized anymore.
And so they were brought back and through a process with our social workers and the community and all were ‑‑ were returned back into the community.
So the idea that the once crazy always crazy began to disappear; that, you know, people could manage their mental illness just like they could any other disease, and they could return as useful citizens, as long as they maintained their medications or whatever the needs were.
And also, we ‑‑ there was a law that we got through, and it said that ‑‑ and the people who were under state care, they or their estate could be charged $50 a month.