A task force has recommended sweeping changes at our state’s maximum-security psychiatric facility.
The task force was formed following revelations of patient abuse at the Whiting Forensic Hospital, much of it uncovered by NBC Connecticut Investigates.
The abuse of patient William Shehadi, and the firing and prosecution of some of the people that committed it, prompted the legislature to appoint a task force to determine how to improve the facility.
After more than two years, the task force reached a number of conclusions.
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“We should be proud of the work we did,” said Dr. John Rodis, a member of the task force and the former president of St. Francis Hospital.
One of the biggest changes the task force recommends is replacing Whiting with a more up to date facility, noting "…numerous safety issues…complaints of vermin, broken equipment, lice, and stark, primitive conditions…”, causing “… hopelessness on the part of patients and low morale on the part of staff.”
The task force voted 6-1 in favor of getting rid of, or modifying the state’s Psychiatric Security Review Board, or PSRB. The task force said it’s one of just three like it in the U.S., adding lengthy commitments placed upon people acquitted but found not guilty by reason of insanity raises concerns.
At the same time, the task force believes an independent office of inspector general should be established for Whiting Forensic Hospital, and Connecticut Valley Hospital, which treats mental health and addiction patients.
The task force said there’s an “…obvious and critical need for oversight…” adding “…both facilities have a long history of violations in the standard of care.”
Task force co-chair Linda Schwartz, former commissioner of the CT Department of Veterans’ Affairs, said, “We’ve heard this all before, but there’s been no follow through or accountability, that is the real crux of the matter here...”
If adopted by legislators, the office of inspector general for Whiting and CVH would make regular, even quarterly reports, documenting items including complaints received, recommendations made, and remedial actions initiated.