Horror in Virginia

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@arcos.org)
Tue, 14 Apr 1998 09:30:58 -0400


The following appeared in the April 14 edition of  the Ottawa Citizen. *W=
arning:*
some parts of this story are extremely disturbing.
----------------------------------------------------

> Ottawa Citizen 4/14/98
>
> Horror stories emerge from
>                   Virginia mental hospitals
>
>                   RICHMOND, Va. (AP) =96 A patient at a Virginia state-=
run
> mental hospital lay flat on her back, bound hand and foot in heavy
> leather restraints, for hundreds of hours until she died. At another Vi=
rginia
> psychiatric hospital, a patient died after the hospital failed to treat=
 her
> despite her complaints and warnings from family.
>
>                   The deaths have left Virginia's $700-million
> mental-health system scrambling  to restore trust amid scrutiny by the =
U.S.
> Justice
> Department, the media, and  patient-advocacy groups.
>
>                   The state cabinet secretary responsible for the
> mental-health system promised last month to raise confidence in the sys=
tem and
> improve patients'  rights protection.
>
>                   "Human rights is a very critical issue. We don't want=
 the
> feds continuing to come into Virginia and tell us how to run our
> facilities," Claude Allen said.
>
>                   The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating
> Virginia's mental   hospitals since 1990 for what it says is inadequate
> patient care that has led to dangerous, sometimes life-threatening situ=
ations.
>
>                   Lawsuits were settled last summer in cases involving
> Eastern State Hospital, Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute and N=
orthern
> Virginia Training Center, which cares for the mentally retarded.
>
>                   Laurie Flynn of the National Alliance for the Mentall=
y
> Ill said no state has  more federal mental-health investigations as Vir=
ginia.
>
>                   "It's a remarkable sign of the relatively poor qualit=
y,"
> she said.
>
>                   Gloria Huntley, a patient at Central State Hospital, =
died
> in June 1996 after lying in restraints for 300 hours, including two
> stretches of nearly 110 hours straight, as punishment for outbursts aga=
inst
> staff.
>
>                   A memo written a year earlier by her former doctor wa=
rned
> restraints could kill Huntley because she suffered from asthma and epil=
epsy.
>
>                   The Justice Department sharply rebuked the Petersburg
> hospital in July 1997,  accusing it of failing to protect the rights of
> Huntley,
> 31, and other patients by subjecting them to abuse, inadequate care and=
 even
> death.
>
>                   The state mental-health commissioner resigned two mon=
ths
> later. The hospital chief was transferred and Virginia is now spending
> millions of dollars to fix problems.
>
>                   The amount of time it held patients in seclusion and
> restraints decreased from 1,100 hours a month in July 1996, to fewer th=
an 200
> hours
> in December 1997,  said a report the hospital filed with a state patien=
ts'
> rights agency.
>
>                   The hospital also changed its former policy allowing
> restraints to be used as  punishment. Now, they're used only for patien=
ts who
> are a
> danger to  themselves or others.
>
>                   At Western State Hospital in Staunton, patient record=
s
> show nothing was done for Maura Patten between July 3, 1997, when her
> sister told the hospital Patten feared she was dying, and July 7, when =
she was
> found dead in her bed.
>
>                   A wheezing Patten, 41, called her family and said she=
 was
> not allowed to carry her inhaler, even though she had nearly died from
> respiratory failure three years earlier.
>
>                   At the same hospital, Carl McCloskey claimed his son,
> John McCloskey, 19, was sodomized with a broom-like handle so savagely =
by
> staff his bowel was torn and his liver punctured.
>
>                   The teenager became violently ill at the mental hospi=
tal
> and lapsed into a coma, dying 14 months later.
>
>                   Western State Hospital has strongly denied the charge=
s.
>
>                   The Justice Department is now considering whether to
> investigate the hospital, said spokeswoman Lee Douglass.
>
>                   Virginia treats 2,200 patients with severe mental ill=
ness
> at nine psychiatric  hospitals. Eastern State, Central State and Wester=
n State
> house more than one-half of them.

--
*******************
Graeme Bacque
<http://web.arcos.org/gbacque>
(#2226799 on ICQ)
++Question and challenge *all* human 'authority'++
**************************************************