Lawmakers Want Hearing into Whiting Abuse Allegations

Lawmakers said a hearing on problems at the Whiting Forensic Division needs to happen sooner than later.

Republican lawmakers sounded downright angry with what they've heard about the Whiting Forensic Division; Staffers with overtime making over $200,000 per year, a hostile work environment, plus allegations a 59-year-old patient was poked, kicked and even had a dirty diaper put on his head, all on surveillance video.

State police have arrested nine out of 31 Whiting employees on administrative leave. There are also investigations by other state agencies. But Senator Heather Somers, co-chair of the public health committee, said a hearing is needed to combat what she calls a culture of cruelty.

"It's hard to believe this is an isolated case. This is a culture. A systematic breakdown, a culture, that must change," Somers said. 

The hearing is welcomed by the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, a group which helps low-income people with mental health issues. Its executive director was perhaps the only person at the news conference who has seen the video of the alleged abuse.

"There are so many issues and so many things that potentially need to be corrected here, that trying to figure out whose responsibility it is," Kathy Flaherty told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters.

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), which oversees Whiting, says it has already made changes and will participate in the hearing.

The governor's office adds there are several ongoing investigations into this and it expects anyone found guilty of misconduct will be brought to justice.

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