The Delaware Psychiatric Center warehouses the mentally ill and fails to protect them from harm, the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division concluded in a scathing report made public.
The 21-page report, delivered to Gov. Jack Markell's office, is based on a three-year federal investigation triggered by a series of News Journal stories about patient abuse at the state's mental institution on U.S. 13 near Minquadale.
Among the report's conclusions:
• At least 70 percent, and perhaps more, of the 170 patients in beds for noncriminals "could be -- and have a right to be -- living in community settings with appropriate services and supports." The average stay should be three to six months, but instead it's about three years. One top state administrator told investigators "pretty much everyone at DPC would be appropriate for community placement."
• Delaware's shortage of community programs, particularly crisis services, leads to "unnecessary institutionalization." Expansion of existing programs "would lead to a significant cost savings" for state taxpayers.
• Patients are too often put in restraints or seclusion "for excessive periods" to control aggressive behavior. Such action not only violates their constitutional right to due process, but illustrates the hospital's "inadequate assessment and treatment of risks."
• Patients face a "high risk" of abuse and neglect, especially those awaiting discharge. In one case, an employee hit a patient in the head with a set of keys, causing cuts that "required sutures and staples to close." In addition, investigations into serious incidents are often inadequate.
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Feds Say Delaware's Mentally Ill Still Warehoused