Formed through a public act, the Connecticut Valley Hospital Whiting Task Force has begun its work.
Members include people from mental health, criminal justice, and patient care fields, who will produce a study on Whiting Forensic Hospital, the subject of a series of NBC Connecticut Investigates reports about patient abuse and poor work environment.
State Sen. Heather Somers says the culture needs to change at Whiting Forensic Hospital, where patient Bill Shehadi suffered repeated abuse that led to more than three dozen employees put on administrative leave, 10 of them arrested, some already behind bars.
“These are our patients, this is the State of Connecticut we are paying for their care, we need to insure that it's proper, it's adequate, there's good outcomes, and that the people that are working in these facilities feel free and comfortable to speak up if they see something that's not okay and this task force gives them the ability to do that,” Somers said.
One of those employee says he works at Whiting’s medium security step-down facility. He hopes the task force not only looks at how front line employees do their jobs, but also administrators, in the wake of the Shehadi abuse case.
“It's important that those people get held accountable, because, I love what I do, but that was disgusting, and I can't stand it, and I'm glad this is happening," said Marcus Spinner.
An attorney for mental health patients, Kathy Flaherty with the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, says she is hopeful the task force will help, but is withholding her opinion for now.
“We'll see if their report is something that people act upon, once it's done, and that's really gonna be the critical thing, will it lead to lasting change”, Flaherty said.