Patient escapes mental health facility

JOHN DAY — A convicted sex offender from Jackson County was found by police in a ditch near Dog Creek off Highway 26 Sunday evening after he escape from the Juniper Ridge Acute Care Facility.

Dusty Brian Korner, 31, Central Point, broke through the fence at the facility on Ford Road just after 6 p.m., Saturday. John Day Police and employees at the facility searched for Korner and could not find him.

Oregon State Police eventually located the him at 7:20 p.m., Sunday.

“He escaped and we believed he just camped out in the woods by the Dog Creek area on Highway 26,” John Day Police Sgt. Damon Rand said. “Nothing has been reported broken into or stolen.”

The escape is the third known incident since the facility opened in 2013.

The facility holds 11 rooms for patients experiencing varying levels of mental crisis. The patients are either court-mandated to be there or voluntarily check-in.

Korner, who escaped over the weekend for more than 24 hours, was admitted to the facility by court order. Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter is reviewing the case for possible charges.

The last escape occurred in January when a 25-year-old man also broke through the fence, through a flaw in its design.

Kimberly Lindsay, executive director of Community Counseling Solutions, the company that operates Juniper Ridge Acute Care Facility, said the facility has been in the process of designing and building a new fence. A purchase order was submitted in early August and the new fence was supposed to be installed in September, but the contractor said it was a backlogged and unable to be put in until late October or early November.

“It was just sickening because had the fence went in in September, this would not have happened,” Lindsay said.

The current fence is flawed because it was built on non-compacted ground. Portions of the fence are leaning and weakened.

Community Counseling Solutions recently filed a lawsuit against Baarstad’s General Contracting, the Pendleton-based general contractor who built the facility, for failing to property compact the soil under the fence. The $125,000 lawsuit claims Baarstad’s breached the contract and was negligent.

Korner likely slid through a broken part of the fence, or put some leverage on the fence and broke it to escape. Unlike a prison yard, Lindsay said, staff does not always supervise the patients.

When the staff confirmed Korner had escaped, they immediately contacted the police, checked the safety of the other patients and notified Korner’s family.

“We are so sick of making these phone calls to the family,” Lindsay said. “It’s embarrassing. The family worked pretty hard to get this person in, and you feel like in that moment you failed.”

Korner was convicted of sex abuse in 2002 in Jackson County. In 2011, he was charged with failing to report as a sex offender. His criminal record also shows charges of interfering with a peace officer in 2003 and disorderly conduct in 2010.

Lindsay said she understands the local community’s concerns. She admits she cannot defend her decision to let months pass before having the fence replaced, or explain why there have been multiple escapes in the facility’s three years of operation.

“I wish I had the ability to convey the sadness, understanding and wanting the community’s trust and their faith,” Lindsay said. “While we do a lot of great things and while we have these moments where we take steps back, we are working in overdrive to address this and we just feel horrible.”

Local law enforcement is taking the escapes seriously because they can pose a public safety risk.

The police and facility are continually working to better handle such incidents.

“That is something we are trying to get figured out,” Sgt. Rand said. “It is a public safety concern.”

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