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Suspect released from mental health hold less than 24 hours before MAX hostage incident

Portland Police say they took the suspect to a hospital after an "altercation" during an "apparent mental health crisis" less than 24 hours before the incident.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Police Bureau arrested a man who they say held two people hostage on a MAX train with a knife and a barbecue skewer Tuesday.

The suspect, Marcus Tate, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to multiple felony charges during his initial court appearance.

On Monday night, less than 24 hours before the hostage situation that sparked a significant police response at Mount Hood Avenue station in Portland, officers had taken Tate into custody.

A PPB spokesperson said Tate had a physical altercation with officers during an "apparent mental health crisis." Police took Tate to a hospital, where he was held overnight but released Tuesday morning.

The case highlights Oregon's mental health evaluation process, which can be complex.

"In the state of Oregon, the criteria is does someone pose an imminent risk to themselves or to other people," said Dr. James Koved, Co-Medical Director of the Psychiatric Emergency Services division at the Unity Center for Behavioral Health.

While the details of any evaluation Tate received are unknown, Koved described the high threshold that medical professionals must clear in order to sign off on involuntary medical treatment.

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When evaluating patients brought to a hospital or clinic, Koved said he may recommend treatment or care, but if they refuse, he must check off a detailed assessment before issuing a Notification of Mental Illness or involuntary hold for treatment that's required by the state.

"In the state of Oregon, the bar is quite high, and so we are held to a standard of looking for a very high level of risk a person might be at in order to seek involuntary treatment," he said. He explained the assessment requires a diagnosis of mental illness — a diagnosis of substance abuse would not meet Oregon's criteria.

In Tate's case, PPB said he was released the morning before he allegedly took a driver and a passenger hostage on a MAX train.

"People’s circumstances change really quickly and there are certain things people might have done in the past they wouldn’t necessarily do in the future, it’s a really challenging assessment," Koved said.

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In Oregon, if a physician believes a patient meets all criteria for an involuntary hold, that assessment is investigated and reviewed by the county’s Involuntary Commitment Process, before it can be reviewed by a Judge, before civil commitment may be approved.

"There are times when we absolutely recognize there is illness that is present, and we still are not able to provide treatment for people," Koved said.

Koved said the current system has gaps and could leave vulnerability for risks, but it displays the balance between prioritizing civil liberties and prioritizing medical treatment.

"Oregon as a state has chosen a relatively high bar, which allows people to live independently and maintain their rights but at the same time can be a real challenge when people are facing a high level of mental illness," he said.

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