Future residents of Pendleton House will arrive with more than boxes and suitcases to unpack.
The 16 men and women will bring a criminal history that landed them at the State Hospital after being judged guilty, but insane.
The forensic facility, located on the campus of the Eastern Oregon Training Center, will open in early January.
A recent article in The Oregonian reported the possible transfer of a convicted killer to Pendleton House has his family worried. The man currently lives at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem.
Ten years ago, Christopher Darrell Persyn killed his 64-year-old father and went after his nephew and niece, 13 and 11, with a knife. Police pepper-sprayed Persyn then shot him three times in the leg before they captured him.
"The last shot blew off his lower left leg," the story said. "Still he hopped into the bathroom where deputies finally pulled him from the tub, grunting, screaming and declaring himself to be Jesus Christ."
A Psychiatric Security Review Board hearing will determine if Persyn, now 36, is ready for a move to a smaller forensic facility. A hearing scheduled for Monday was postponed because of inclement weather and will be rescheduled.
The story quotes Clackamas County Chief District Attorney Gregory Homer as not believing the Pendleton facility would provide adequate security for Persyn, who Homer said "belongs under maximum supervision."
The article concerned some at the Department of Human Services, which oversees the Oregon State Hospital and the Pendleton House. Patty Wentz, DHS spokeswoman, bristled at the notion the new facility lacks security.
"Pendleton House is as secure as the state hospital," she said. "The idea it isn't secure is just not accurate."
Wentz said DHS discussed security measures with the Pendleton Police Department.
Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts said he shared suggestions about fencing, camera surveillance and trees that needed to be removed. Recently, he did a walk-through.
"I'm confident the facility is as secure as they can make it," Roberts said.
The 8-foot fence has an upper portion constructed of no-climb mesh and a two-foot extension that juts at an angle back toward the yard. Anyone climbing the fence will trigger an alarm. Interior and exterior cameras will monitor activity.
"The doors are locked 24/7," said Darcy Strahan, State-Delivered Residential Services manager. "You need a key card to get in and out."
If a resident did escape, police and Pendleton House staff would work in tandem, Roberts said.
"We shared a fair amount of information about clients - as much as the law allows," Roberts said. "We can readily access not only their photos, but their history."
Strahan said the PSRB doesn't allow a person to move to a residential facility unless the staff has determined they no longer need a hospital level of care.
PSRB members will determine whether Persyn is ready to move into Pendleton House. They may decide against it, saying he hasn't shown sufficient progress. If not, Persyn will be Pendleton-bound.
"The PSRB considers whether they are a danger to themselves and others," Strahan said. "That's number one."
Pendleton House employs 36 people, most from the greater Pendleton area. About 140 staff members once worked at the Eastern Oregon Training Center, which is in the midst of a phase out. Monthly payroll is around $123,000.
Staff members receive training in restraining clients during psychiatric crisis. The facility has a holding room where individuals can be safely secluded or mechanically restrained. The room, officials anticipate, will rarely be used.
Almost 800 Oregonians are under the jurisdiction of the PSRB and live in various settings from the State Hospital, forensic facilities and independent living.
Next week: A Pendleton House tour and the facility's mission to help clients improve their mental health.