For Immediate Release
Contact: Marlene Sallo, Executive Director
DLC Issues Recommendations for Bridgewater State Hospital
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 September 2019 through February 2020. DLC continues to raise the same concerns regarding the deteriorating physical plant and now expands those concerns to include positive mold testing results. It is important to note that the extent of DLC’s monitoring would not be possible without our broad access, and our mold testing would not be possible without our expanded authority granted under Line Item #8900-0001. DLC also continues to raise concerns around the administration of medication and the disparate treatment of individuals served under DOC, rather than Wellpath, security.
- Deteriorating Physical Plant: For well over a year now, DLC has urged DOC to conduct extensive mold sample swab testing throughout BSH (see DLC recommendation in our February 25, 2019 and July 15, 2019 reports). DOC repeatedly and consistently, not only refused to do such testing, but actively denied DLC access to perform the tests. During this reporting period, DLC was granted specific authority under Line Item #8900-0001 to conduct mold testing, including in areas where persons served (“PS”) are not living. As such, DLC toured BSH with our contracted mold expert on December 5, 2019 and returned on December 19, 2019 to collect samples throughout the facility for testing. The testing revealed extensive mold in almost every single area swabbed by our expert, including HVAC systems/vents. Consistent with DLC’s prior recommendations, DLC submits that, instead of the resource drain of patchwork fixes for the existing BSH facility, the Commonwealth needs to construct a modern facility that can effectively provide humane and appropriate treatment.
- Administration of Medication: DLC renews its concerns raised in our May 2018 report that medication should be administered with informed consent first and, if that is not possible, then a court order should be sought. Further, all individuals in need of “strict security” during psychiatric evaluation and/or treatment should be under the auspices of the Department of Mental Health.
- Disparities in Use of Force between BSH and Old Colony Correctional Center (“OCCC”) Bridgewater Units: From chemical agents to handcuffs, DOC security measures at OCCC escalate situations and are both inflammatory and trauma-inducing to PS. We believe the current distinctions used to differentiate between these populations do not necessarily reflect different security risks. DLC urges DOC to ensure uniformity in the security protocols at BSH and the OCCC Units and to discontinue security measures based on a culture of punishment and control, namely, chemical agents, handcuffs, and utilization of tactical teams.
- Contraband and Security at BSH: Wellpath and DOC have and should continue to collaborate on safety and security improvements. This should be done while prioritizing the treatment and well-being of the PS at BSH.
- Continue to Make Progress on Policies and Practices: Wellpath and DOC must continue to identify and respond to issues where there is a lack of clarity and/or no policy guidance. Specifically, DLC recommends that DOC formulate policies on PREA consent standards and OCCC ISOU admissions as soon as possible, and that Wellpath continue efforts to track and report on assaults.
Marlene Sallo, the Executive Director of DLC, stated, “For years, we have been raising concerns about the hazardous living conditions at Bridgewater State Hospital and the need for DOC to ensure the health and safety of Persons Served and staff alike. Our report makes it perfectly clear: DOC must take swift and appropriate action to address the mold and multiple physical plant issues at BSH. Construction of a modern facility will be the only effective way to provide humane and appropriate treatment for Persons Served at BSH.”
As it has done in every one of its reports, DLC continues to implore the Commonwealth to construct a safe and 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.
DLC, as the designated Protection and Advocacy System for Massachusetts, is authorized under federal law to investigate incidents of abuse, neglect, and death of individuals with disabilities throughout the Commonwealth.