Pursuant to its legislative charge to monitor the efficacy of service delivery reforms at Bridgewater State Hospital (“BSH”), the Disability Law Center (“DLC”) issued its six-month report summarizing its findings from its monitoring efforts there July 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018. Although there continues to be real positive change at BSH, virtually all forward progress must surmount difficult physical conditions caused by a deteriorating 45-year-old building that does not support or facilitate good mental treatment for men deemed to need “strict security.” Nearly constant day-to-day deficiencies in the physical environment affect almost every aspect of the BSH infrastructure, including the heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical systems, rendering it inappropriate to fully and appropriately treat the men at this facility.
Key problems with the physical environment at BSH include:
- Extreme heat and humidity, which can have especially harmful effects on Persons Served (“PS”): Staff from the vendor, Wellpath, were sent out to doctors for heat-related symptoms and PS complained to DLC of heat-related symptoms, such as headaches, tiredness, sunburn and difficulty breathing. Even when the vendor offered to bring in additional cooling devices, the offer was unable to be accepted because the antiquated electrical system was inadequate to support even such stopgap measures.
- Mold outbreak in the basements of several buildings: Due to a leak in the antiquated steam heat system, a mold outbreak occurred in the basement of the Medical Building and failed waste pumps resulted in four inches of water in the basement of the Administration Building. DLC sought and obtained a meeting with DOC to discuss concerns, but was denied the opportunity to test mold samples.
- Leaky roof over the gym in the Commons building: Water dripping from the ceiling of this building after a significant rain or snow storm has been an ongoing problem at BSH. On at least one occasion a PS slipped on the floor and had to receive medical attention, while a Wellpath staff member who had slipped needed be taken out for medical attention. DOC had plans to replace the roof, but the discovery of asbestos in the roof forced a postponement of that needed repair.
Marlene Sallo, the Executive Director of DLC, stated, “the time is long past when Massachusetts can continue to tolerate such horrendous conditions. We are only one heat wave or one mold explosion away from serious harm or death to a person served at Bridgewater State Hospital. These conditions call for decisive and effective action to be taken now.”
As it has done in every one of its reports, DLC continues to implore the Commonwealth to put DMH in charge of the facility. Historically that agency has resisted doing so as long as BSH remains at this antiquated facility. The Commonwealth needs to construct a modern facility that can effectively provide humane and appropriate treatment to this extremely needy population. DLC urges state government to proceed with addressing this long overdue unaddressed need under the auspices of the Department of Mental Health.