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David Romprey was frequently quoted in his home town’s newspaper in Salem, Oregon. There have been articles covering his work, and letters to the editor by David. One of the reporters who has interviewed him previously wrote this piece about his death. [Correction: Newspaper mistakenly said David’s daughter is Emily; Becky Child tell us her name is actually Eleanor.]

Mental-health activist dies at 42

Date Published:

Aug 01, 2008 01:00 AM

Author: Ruth Liao

Source: Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon, USA

Medical issue kills David Romprey before car crash

Longtime Salem activist David Romprey, who is remembered as an outspoken crusader for Oregon’s mental-health system, has died, officials said.

Romprey was about to begin Monday as a coordinator of the Oregon Peer Bridgers Project with the Oregon State Hospital, spokeswoman Patricia Feeny said.

Romprey died Wednesday night in Salem as he was pulling out of a driveway near 12th and Chemeketa streets NE, Salem Police Lt. Mark Keagle said.

It happened about 6 p.m. when the vehicle crashed into a pole, police said. Police determined that Romprey died of a medical condition before the crash.

Romprey was 42. He is survived by two children, Max and Emily.

Romprey, who spent two years as an Oregon State Hospital patient until he was released in 1991, was a critic of the state’s 125-year-old Salem facility and fought to diminish stigmas attached to mental illnesses.

In 2005, Romprey was honored with the Mental Health Award for Excellence by the Oregon Department of Human Services, Feeny said.

Romprey was integral in helping to create the Oregon Peer Bridgers Project, a new program that would help released patients’ transition into the community, said Roy Orr, superintendent of Oregon State Hospital.

The program will help create individualized plans for patients who are either selected or who volunteer to join. On average, about 50 to 60 patients are discharged monthly from the state hospital campuses in Portland and Salem, Orr said.

The program also would track the patients’ progress and adjustment back into the community, Orr said.

“It’s just stunning to think, we’re now without David and the world’s a little poorer as a result,” Orr said.

Friend Mike Hlebechuk, a residential services coordinator for the state, said Romprey’s greatest gift was his command of the English language — in speech or writing.

Romprey once evoked Moses’ cry “Let my people go” in talking to representatives from the president’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, Hlebechuk said.

Friend David W. Oaks, the director of MindFreedom International, called Romprey a “dynamic hero” for the mental-health advocacy movement in Oregon.

Oaks described Romprey’s efforts as a “community organizer,” who would travel to Eastern Oregon to help set up mental-health consumer support groups and networks.

“David had overwhelming passion for the most marginalized and powerless people in the mental-health system,” Oaks said.

Romprey was a longtime member of a statewide mental-health advisory council, said Madeline Olson, a deputy assistant director of the Addiction and Mental-Health Division.

Romprey also advocated wellness for everyone, not just those with mental illnesses.

“His whole life was an example that categorizing people and stigmatizing people was foolish and wrong,” Olson said.

rliao at or (503) 589-6941