FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 1, 2023
Tatum A. Pritchard
Director of Litigation
Disability Law Center
Disability Law Center Again Recommends Transfer of Oversight of Bridgewater State Hospital to the Department of Mental Health Due to Continuing Health and Safety Risks and Rights Violations
Boston, MA – The Disability Law Center (DLC) has issued its July 2023 report detailing findings and recommendations from its intensive monitoring activities at Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH), including the Bridgewater Annex Units at Old Colony Correctional Center.
DLC covers an array of topics in the report, all of which indicate that health and safety risks and serious rights violations abound at the Department of Correction (DOC) facility run by contractor Wellpath, despite recent reform efforts. For example, DLC finds that: incomplete efforts to address the presence of mold and stifling conditions in housing unit cells leave BSH Persons Served at risk; BSH Persons Served continue to be subjected to violent interventions and illegal chemical and physical restraint and seclusion practices; and access to medical care for many BSH Persons Served remains inadequate. In examining continuity of care issues for current and former Persons Served, DLC discusses impediments to timely and successful transfers to DMH facilities and Mental Health Watch practices in several county correctional facilities.
After almost a decade of monitoring, DLC again urgently calls on the Commonwealth to transfer oversight of the BSH population to the Department of Mental Health (DMH) and to construct a new psychiatric hospital. While DLC offers several interim recommendations to address immediate needs and interests of Persons Served, the report emphasizes that protecting the health, safety, and rights of those with complex mental health needs and disabilities who are involuntarily committed to BSH can only be accomplished with a transfer of power and closure of the infamous facility.
”DLC’s long-term monitoring efforts, supported by Line Item #8900-0001, provide critical insight into the conditions and treatment offered to individuals with complex mental health needs behind the walls of Bridgewater State Hospital. DLC welcomes the bond money now appropriated by the Governor to complete a study of the development a new hospital and urges the state 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 Massachusetts’ designated Protection and Advocacy, 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.