Orchard Knoll: prostitutes, drugs and more problems for Roseburg VA

Elizabeth Howe
January 16, 2019 - 12:43 pm

Photo courtesy of Dreamstime

The Roseburg VA in Oregon has attracted more than its fair share of media coverage in recent years for firing whistleblowers and having the highest rate of opioid prescriptions. Now, just as it seemed like the office was finally stabilizing, prostitutes have allegedly surfaced. 

Tenants from Orchard Knoll, a low-income housing project on the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus (that gives preference to veterans but also houses non-veterans) are complaining about problems involving alcohol, drugs, and prostitutes in the facility

“On the very front of Orchard Knoll, it says ‘Proudly Welcoming Veterans.’ Yeah right, proudly serving veterans. You’re not. You’re doing us wrong,” said Samantha Frost, a former tenant of Orchard Knoll.

Frost is a Roseburg High School graduate who served in the Air Force from 1997 to 2000 in Oman. After leaving the Air Force, Frost went to school in Honolulu and worked in forensic science in several states before family problems brought her back to Roseburg. She was in a car accident about a year ago and lived at the VA’s rehabilitation center for a while before getting a spot at Orchard Knoll.

When she moved in, Frost said, the apartment itself hasn't been properly cleaned. As her stay in Orchard Knoll continued she observed residents who were visibly intoxicated and on drugs — Orchard Knoll is supposedly a substance-free facility. She also came to the conclusion that several suspicious women who frequented the place were not residents but prostitutes, and that one of the tenants was their pimp.

Frost tried to work with management and, eventually, the police. Her efforts resulted in an eviction notice for "harassing other tenants."

Other veterans have reiterated Frost's claims.

While Orchard Knoll is owned by the Housing Authority of Douglas County (HADCO) — not the VA — its location on the VA campus might not help the facility's precarious status.

A spokesperson from the Roseburg VA reiterated that Orchard Knoll is not operated by the VA — saying the VA's connection with HADCO and Orchard Knoll only goes so far as to guarantee that at least 50 percent of Orchard Knoll's tenants are veterans. Beyond that contract, the spokesperson explained, the VA has no responsibilities or jurisdiction for or over Orchard Knoll. Any complaints about the facility that are submitted to the VA's office are redirected to Orchard Knoll's management office. 

Yet the fact remains that Orchard Knoll is on VA property and until only a couple of months ago the Roseburg VA was on a list of 15 medical centers with one-star SAIL ratings

Issues at the clinic were first brought to light in 2017, when retired Air Force Col. Scott Russi was fired shortly after he began working as a surgeon at the Roseburg VA's Eugene clinic. He claims that the firing was retaliation for his whistle-blowing on the facility's substandard care. 

Last January, the Roseburg VA was also featured in a New York Times article in which it was reported the Roseburg VA had turned away high-risk patients against doctors' advice in an effort to boost its star ranking. The article was based on a letter from not one, but five physicians contracted by the VA.

The New York Times article came out right around the same time that Jefferson Public Radio reported the Roseburg VA Medical Center had the highest rate of opioid prescriptions of all VA hospitals nationwide.

Despite these reports of alarmingly substandard care, however, the Roseburg VA Medical Center managed to get itself off the high-risk list. The national assessment of VA medical centers decided that improvements at the facility warranted its removal, along with five other VA hospitals.

A VA spokesperson says she does not believe the current situation at Orchard Knoll will have a negative effect on their improved ranking. 

The News-Review contacted Janeal Kohler, the HADCO director, who declined an interview and did not directly respond to specific questions sent via email. 

The Associated Press and the News-Review contributed to this article.