A whistleblower who reported patient abuse at Whiting Forensic Hospital unmasked himself to NBC Connecticut Investigates just a month before he died.
Ben Rosado reported the abuse at the state run psychiatric facility in Middletown, which lead to multiple firings and arrests.
He spoke exclusively with Chief Investigative Reporter Len Besthoff, who broke the patient abuse story two years ago.
He said speaking out destroyed his life.
Rosado, a 21-year state employee, said things became unbearable for him after blowing the whistle on patient abuse.
“I’m very afraid for my life. I’ve gotten threats," Rosado said on May 8. "I’ve gotten threats via cellphone. I’ve been told not to come back to work if I knew best.”
Rosado lost his job, his home, his marriage ended, admitted he turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with his pain.
Just a month after we interviewed him, he was found dead from a combination of prescription and illicit drugs – ultimately succumbing to the struggles that came with speaking out.
Rosado explained he was the one who blew the whistle on repeated, widespread abuse of patient Bill Shehadi by his co-workers.
“I didn’t want Mr. Shehadi to die on my watch. The pranks got worse. The abuse got worse. It kept escalating,” Rosado said.
Rosado said he did not report the abuse he witnessed daily for a long time - a choice he admits was wrong.
“The minute you get hired there you are trained to not talk about anything that you witness,” he said.
The Connecticut Legal Rights Project, which provides legal services to low income people with mental health conditions, confirmed with NBC Connecticut Investigates that Rosado tried to report Shehadi’s abuse to them.
They encouraged Rosado to go to his supervisor.
After witnessing abuse he knew would have been caught on surveillance video in Shehadi’s room, he said he finally reported it in the winter of 2017.
“It took the diaper incident where I witnessed four of my co-workers wiping the soiled diaper, that wasn’t Mr. Shehadi’s by the way, it was another patient’s soiled diaper, they were rubbing this diaper on his face.”
The state acted immediately against employees caught on video abusing patient Bill Shehadi, ultimately arresting 10 and dismissing more than three dozen people.
Rosado said the state failed to protect his identity and he was ultimately outed as the whistleblower.
In addition, years after Rosado spoke out, he was fired, a move the state confirmed was made, in part for failing to report the abuse immediately.
The stress of reporting the abuse fueled mental health issues. Rosado said he turned to substances to cope.
He said it threw him into a self-destructive spiral, causing his life to fall apart.
Ultimately, he found himself spending time in a mental health facility dealing with the trauma of the fallout from his decision to report the abuse.
“Blowing the whistle has cost me everything that took me a lifetime to build.”
Will Madsen, an attorney who represents whistleblowers, said they often don’t realize how much their lives will change once they talk.
“Most whistleblowers agonize over the decision whether to blow the whistle. They’re going to be ostracized - they are going to be potentially subject to retaliation, they may become the focus of media attention, and their careers may never recover,” Madsen said.
One of Rosado’s last comments to us, was despite what happened, he would blow the whistle again.
“I can’t tell you that it was worth it. But it was the right thing to do.”
The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, which oversees Whiting, told us it cannot comment because Shehadi’s abuse case is the subject of a civil lawsuit.
The union representing Rosado, nor the Shehadi family would comment either.