Panel: Whiting Forensic Hospital Building Needs Makeover

Problems at our state’s maximum-security psychiatric hospital extend well beyond patient abuse - the physical building itself needs a makeover at a minimum, according to a task force looking at improving the facility.

NBC Connecticut Investigates broke the story about abuse at the Whiting Forensic Hospital in Middletown that led to arrests and suspensions of employees and the creation of that task force.

Task force members got a tour of Whiting and said it provides a poor setting for good patient outcomes.

The hospital houses dozens of patients getting their mental competency restored for trial, and others accused of serious crimes found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Task force co-chair Michael Lawlor said many patient activities take place in basement rooms.

“None of them have any natural light whatsoever. The corridors are very narrow, everything is very dated.”

Options to improve Whiting include updating or replacing the building, or moving away from Connecticut’s large-scale psychiatric patient treatment model.

Paul Acker of Advocacy Unlimited, and a member of the task force, asked, “Is institutional care still a thing? Do we need to start looking at alternatives because I found Whiting to be depressing.”

Others on the panel wondered if Whiting’s current building might be replaced by a smaller, maximum-security facility housing those found not guilty by reason of insanity, and having people treated for shorter term competency issues elsewhere.

The Whiting task force plans to give the legislature a report with recommendations in a year and a half.

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