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Escape from Oregon State Hospital Results in Changes to Detainee Transports

Facing charges including attempted murder, assault and robbery, Christopher Lee Pray, 39, was being evaluated for fitness to stand trial on August 30, 2023, when he commandeered an Oregon State Hospital (OSH) transport van returning him from a local medical center. Though he was recaptured in Portland around 36 hours later, the incident prompted almost immediate changes to OSH transport policy announced on September 15, 2023.

Details of Pray’s escape were sketchy, but he apparently was involved in a fight with another detainee before he was taken to the medical center for treatment. When the transport van driver got out to help him from the vehicle, Pray “jumped in the driver’s seat and drove off,” state police reported, despite being in handcuffs, leg shackles and a waist chain. A high-speed chase ensued but was discontinued due to “safety concerns” after an unsuccessful attempt to use tire spikes. It took almost 12 hours before the escape was made public. Pray was found another 19 hours after that, up to his armpits in a golf course pond 50 miles away.

In the incident’s aftermath, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an “immediate jeopardy” finding against OSH, giving the hospital 23 days to fix problems related to “secure medical transport of patients” or face cut-off from Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

“Our foremost priority is always the safety of patients, staff and the public,” said Oregon State Hospital superintendent Dolly Matteucci, who promised that steps were immediately being taken “to reduce the possibility that an unauthorized leave could occur during transport,” which would “potentially put [patients], staff or members of the community at risk.”

Remediations will reportedly include physical changes to the hospital’s transport vehicles. Meanwhile, Pray faces additional charges for his short-lived escape, including reckless driving and violating parole.  


Sources: KGW, Statesman Journal

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