Disability Law Center Finds Continuing Systemic Rights Violations and Health and Safety Risks at Bridgewater State Hospital

Boston, MA – The Disability Law Center (DLC) has issued our January 2023 public report summarizing findings and recommendations arising out of intensive monitoring efforts at Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH) from July 2022 through December 2022. The report examines both continuing and new concerns discovered during this reporting period related to facility conditions and BSH policies and practices that negatively impact the rights, health, and safety of BSH Persons Served.

Among the topics discussed is the continuing widespread presence of mold growth throughout BSH, as confirmed by DLC’s expert, despite the costly mold remediation and asbestos abatement efforts the Department of Correction undertook in response to DLC’s 2022 reports. The presence of environmental toxins, in combination with sanitation issues, vermin infestation, recurring power outages, and ineffective heat mitigation efforts during the summer months, put Persons Served at risk. In addition, systemic violations of Massachusetts law regarding chemical and physical restraint and seclusion persist at BSH, resulting in foreseeable physical and psychological harm to Persons Served. Likewise, inadequate language access for individuals with Limited English Proficiency and many impediments to successful continuity of care following discharge from BSH remain unchanged.

DLC’s report also raises two new issues related to treatment of BSH Persons Served. First, information DLC gathered during this reporting period indicates that access to treatment for individuals with substance use disorder is insufficient and BSH providers may be inappropriately tapering and terminating access to Medication Assisted Treatment. Second, DLC presents serious concerns about BSH’s introduction of an “atypical antipsychotic” taken via inhalation as a treatment option for Persons Served, despite the medication’s association with increased risk of bronchospasm and contradictions for people with respiratory conditions and aging individuals with dementia.

In the report, DLC provides sweeping recommendations for addressing the issues examined. Ultimately, however, in keeping with past reports, DLC concludes that protecting PS – people with complex mental health needs who are forced to submit to evaluation and treatment at BSH – requires that the Commonwealth transfer oversight of the population to the Department of Mental Health and commit to building a new hospital.

”DLC’s intensive, long-term monitoring efforts, made possible through the support and expanded authority granted by Line Item #8900-0001, provide unique and critical insight into the treatment of people with complex mental health needs at Bridgewater State Hospital. With the new administration comes a renewed request to prioritize the overdue shift from a correctional model to a therapeutic mental health approach overseen by the Department of Mental Health.” Barbara A L’Italien, Executive Director, DLC.

As the designated Protection and Advocacy agency for Massachusetts, DLC is authorized under federal law to investigate incidents of abuse, neglect, and death of individuals with disabilities throughout the Commonwealth. Line Item #8900-0001 of the FY 2023 Budget provides DLC funding and enhanced legislative authority to monitor the efficacy of service delivery reforms, physical plant, and continuity of care at BSH.

Tatum A. Pritchard
Director of Litigation
Disability Law Center
617-315-4612
tpritchard@dlc-ma.org

Read Full Report Here

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