Agency Head Addresses Allegations of Whiting Abuse

The Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services is talking exclusively to the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters about a case of alleged abuse that now has more than two dozen state employees on leave. The case involves the maximum security Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown. 

Karen Kangas, the co-conservator of the male patient at the center of the alleged abuse at the Whiting Forensic Division, has worked with him for more than two decades. She visited him at Whiting last week.

“By looking at him, he's been abused a long time,” she told the Troubleshooters.

The patient's alleged abuse over a two month period was discovered on surveillance video flagged by a whistleblower. Kangas got a description of what happened by administrators at the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, or DMHAS.

“Kicked him and laughed at him, and made fun of him, and somebody said they went by and just spit at him," she said.

DMHAS Commissioner Miriam Delphin Rittmon cannot share much about the case at Whiting. She does say she took immediate action as soon as the patient abuse allegations surfaced.

“The video let us know that, immediately once I saw it, called in the state police, and wanted a thorough and ongoing investigation. The Department of Public Health is involved as well," Rittmon said.

So what happens next at Whiting? The commissioner says, more administrators on the hospital floor, staff retraining, especially on proper reporting of abuse, and even more surveillance.

“What we're doing now is and we're focusing on you know what we can do to decrease the likelihood of this ever happening again. So things like increasing cameras not just so Whiting but all over campus, also things like you know viewing the video footage live."

The commissioner adds she has brought on new staff, former staff, and administrators to help treat the dozens of patients at Whiting while the 27 employees remain on leave. She could not give an approximate timeline on how long the state police investigation into the alleged abuse will take.

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