Skip to main content

Aid and Assist

The criminal justice and behavioral health systems can sometimes overlap. Washington County is working to maintain the balance between equal justice and community safety.

What does aid and assist mean?

When people are accused of a crime and can’t participate in their trial because of mental illness, the court may order them to undergo mental health treatment so they can become well enough to "aid and assist" in their own defense. In most cases, they are sent to the Oregon State Hospital (OSH) for treatment.

The current situation

Due to a critical shortage of treatment beds at OSH, in August 2022, Federal Judge Michael Mosman ordered OSH to release aid and assist patients on a faster timeline, regardless of whether they can actually participate in their own defense.

Under the new order, the maximum time patients can stay at OSH are:

Under the Mosman Order, some individuals are returning from OSH to their home counties and will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months. Washington County has a system of mental health care within the community that can provide “restoration services” to most of these aid and assist defendants. However, there are other individuals who may be a serious threat to public safety and need a secure environment to complete restoration that doesn’t currently exist outside of OSH. In addition, jail facilities and systems are not designed or staffed to provide the type of care needed by these individuals. It will be up to a judge to decide where they go after their release from OSH.

Washington County response

Over the past few years, staff from various County departments have worked together to create procedures to minimize local jail time for aid and assist defendants and maximize public safety:

  • A special court docket includes informal case staffing by defense attorneys, prosecutors and behavioral health practitioners.
  • The County’s Rapid Fitness to Proceed Program has shortened the amount of time that defendants must wait in the Washington County Jail for “fitness to proceed” determinations.
  • The program has reduced the average wait time from 62 days to 16, freeing up critically needed jail space for other criminal defendants awaiting court appearances The program saved 1,472 total jail days for 39 defendants in 2022. If calculated in dollars and cents at $264.78 per person, per day, this would amount to $475,015.32.
  • A partnership with the Beaverton Municipal Court was formed to divert people with mental health challenges from going to jail for non-violent offenses and getting treatment instead.
  • The County hired additional behavioral health staff who use proven best practices to manage and support aid and assist defendants.

We are continuing to work with our state and local partners to find long-term, sustainable solutions to this challenge. This will take dedicated funding for secure residential treatment facilities and for more highly trained staff to do this important work.