July 29, 2022

Tatum A. Pritchard
Director of Litigation
Disability Law Center

Disability Law Center Again Calls for Bridgewater State Hospital Reform on the Basis of Serious Concerns About Facility Conditions and Rights Violations

Boston, MA – The Disability Law Center (DLC) has issued a public report today summarizing findings and recommendations arising out of intensive monitoring efforts at Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH) from January 2022 through June 2022. DLC’s intensive ongoing monitoring of BSH would not be possible without the support and expanded monitoring authority granted by Line Item #8900-0001.

In the report, DLC highlights serious concerns about conditions and practices that negatively impact the rights, health, and safety of BSH Persons Served (PS), including: lack of clarity from the Department of Correction (DOC) regarding the status of remediation of widespread mold confirmed by DLC’s expert in the last reporting period; continuing illegal chemical and physical restraint and seclusion practices; and inadequate language access for PS with limited English proficiency. DLC also discusses deficiencies in discharge planning, information sharing, and continuity of care for PS discharged to county correctional facilities, Department of Mental Health (DMH) hospitals, and other DOC facilities.

DLC’s sweeping recommendations include calls for the following reform:

  • DOC must remediate mold and complete asbestos abatement throughout BSH and provide detailed information evidencing that: DOC has conducted mold remediation and asbestos abatement in all areas identified by experts in keeping with industry standards; and DOC has conducted air quality testing and lab testing of surface swab indicating that remediation and abatement efforts were successful.
  • The Commonwealth must immediately place under the authority of DMH operations of BSH and the care of all individuals found by a court to need “strict security” for psychiatric evaluation and treatment.
  • The Commonwealth must commit to closing BSH and commit to constructing a modern DMH facility designed to provide psychiatric evaluations and treatment in a safe, therapeutic environment.
  • DOC, and its contractor, Wellpath, 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 M.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.
  • DLC strongly recommends that BSH and DMH commit to tracking and analyzing race/ethnicity data concerning application of restraint and seclusion – including ETOs at BSH – on individuals who are subject to psychiatric hospitalization in the Commonwealth.
  • DOC must ensure that Wellpath takes steps to ensure universal access to BSH programs and services for PS with limited English proficiency through implementation of established Language Access Plan requirements.
  • DOC and Wellpath must provide more than one avenue for PS to access medical services to ensure that the process is accessible to all PS, including PS with LEP and PS with disabilities that impact their communication abilities.
  • DOC and Wellpath must improve access to mental health clinicians and therapeutic programming in the Intensive Stabilization and Observation Unit  (ISOU) to break the cycle of self-harm, ISOU evaluation, discharge and repeat for prisoners with serious behavioral health conditions deemed to not meet the commitment standard.
  • The Commonwealth should commit DMH resources to further DMH engagement with all county correctional facilities to enhance access to mental health care for all county prisoners, including recently discharged BSH PS.

“The critical monitoring that DLC does at Bridgewater underscores the need to recognize human rights and support the intensive service needs of people challenged with behavioral health conditions. Eight years into this work, we maintain the critical need to shift from a correctional to a therapeutic mental health model under the Department of Mental Health.” Barbara A L’Italien, Executive Director, DLC.

Since its investigation into the use of excessive use of restraint and seclusion at BSH that began eight years ago, DLC has implored the Commonwealth to place facility operations under the authority of DMH and construct a modern DMH facility to meet the needs of the population.

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. Line Item #8900-0001 provides funding and enhanced legislative authority to monitor the efficacy of service delivery reforms, physical plant, and continuity of care at BSH.



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Disability Law Center Again Calls for Bridgewater State Hospital Reform on the Basis of Serious Concerns About Facility Conditions and Rights Violations

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