February 9, 2022

Tatum A. Pritchard
Interim Executive Director and Director of Litigation
Disability Law Center

Disability Law Center Finds Serious Health and Safety Concerns at Bridgewater State Hospital, Confirming Widespread Mold and Improper Use of Restraint

Boston, MA – Today, the Disability Law Center (“DLC”) issued a public report summarizing its findings from its monitoring efforts at Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH) from July 2021 through December 2021. On January 31, 2022, DLC released a private, unredacted version of the report to select government officials, pursuant to its legislative authority to monitor the efficacy of service delivery reforms, physical plant, and continuity of care at BSH.

In the report, DLC highlights concerns regarding harmful levels of mold growth – confirmed once again by DLC’s expert – throughout BSH; illegal chemical and physical restraint and seclusion practices; the pervasive culture of punishment and intimidation; limitations on access to medical care for BSH Persons Served (“PS”); and the lack of programming for PS who are in quarantine, are undergoing initial evaluation, and have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. In addition, DLC discusses deficiencies in discharge planning and continuity of care, including psychiatric medications, for PS transferred to county correctional facilities.

DLC’s sweeping recommendations include the following:

  • DOC must immediately remediate mold and assess for other environmental toxins existing in the BSH physical plant per expert recommendations and industry standards.
  • The Commonwealth must commit to closing and constructing a modern facility designed to provide psychiatric evaluations and treatment in a safe, therapeutic environment.
  • The Commonwealth must immediately place BSH, as well as the planning, construction, and oversight of the new facility, under the authority of DMH.
  • DOC and Wellpath BSH must provide regular health screenings for symptoms of mold and environmental toxin exposure to all PS and staff, provided by a contracted health professional with expertise in the area.
  • Wellpath and DOC must immediately cease imposition of chemical restraint, including so-called Emergency Treatment Orders, physical restraint, and seclusion in circumstances that do not meet the narrowly tailored requirements of G.L. c. 123, § 21.
  • The Commonwealth must demand that DOC and Wellpath accurately document and report all uses of chemical restraint, physical restraint, and seclusion in keeping with applicable law and engage DMH or another external party to conduct an investigation into BSH practices.
  • DOC and Wellpath must adopt process that allows PS to submit written requests for evaluation and treatment of medical issues that a member of medical staff will review and respond to promptly.
  • Wellpath must permanently close the former Intensive Treatment Unit and never allow another PS to experience the trauma of isolation in that space, whether for quarantine, seclusion, or any other justification.
  • The Commonwealth, through the State Office of Pharmacy Services or otherwise, should implement standardized formularies for BSH and county correctional facilities or, at the least, require that special consideration be given to nonformulary mental health medication requests from individuals who have transitioned from the BSH to a correctional facility.
  • DMH resources should be committed to further DMH engagement with all county correctional facilities regarding mental health treatment, including promoting best practices, and to ensure that PS transitioned to county correctional facilities can access appropriate mental health services and supports while incarcerated and promptly upon their release.

“DLC continues to sound the alarm about significant issues at Bridgewater State Hospital that negatively impact the physical and mental health of individuals held there involuntarily. Incarcerating people in the name of providing mental health care in an unsafe and untherapeutic facility while subjecting them to punitive and illegal restraint and seclusion practices can only be viewed as a failure of our Commonwealth.” Tatum A. Pritchard, Interim Executive Director and Director of Litigation, DLC.

Since its investigation into the use of restraint and seclusion at BSH that began eight years ago, DLC has implored the Commonwealth to put DMH in charge of the facility. DLC has also urged the Commonwealth to construct a modern facility that can effectively provide humane and appropriate treatment, as well as safe working conditions, at BSH.

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.

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Disability Law Center Finds Serious Health and Safety Concerns at Bridgewater State Hospital, Confirming Widespread Mold and Improper Use of Restraint

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