ABUSE AND NEGLECT IN DC HOSPITAL

If you can dig through all the Michael Vick articles in the Washington Post, you will run across an article published yesterday by Jenna Johnson, Post staff writer, entitled “Youth Hospital Faulted for Abuse.” Read the full article here.

Ms. Johnson cites a report published this week by district mental health officials, that states
‘Children at Riverside Hospital in Northwest Washington are at risk from “serious and persistent abuse and neglect.”‘

‘The psychiatric hospital for youths up to age 21 stopped accepting new long-term patients last week. But Riverside lawyers say the temporary halt in admissions has nothing to do with the report and was a “completely voluntary” way to provide patients with quality treatment as the hospital completes an “intensive program and plant renovation initiative.” The lawyers said they did not know how long this initiative will take.’

The article continues: “University Legal Services Inc., a federally designated advocacy group for District children with developmental disabilities, produced the 13-page report summarizing its observations, interviews and investigations at the hospital since April 2006. There have been previous allegations of abuse at the private, for-profit hospital, including one into the death in December of a teenage resident. In 1997, federal regulators threatened to cut Riverside, which opened in 1995, from the Medicaid program.”

“The latest report, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, provides a grim description of Riverside: Youths were punched, choked, slapped, pushed and threatened by staff members. Children were highly medicated as a form of restraint or placed in seclusion for reasons such as “being playful with his roommate.”

Did you catch that? The report states youths were assaulted by staff members. I am certainly not a psychiatrist, but how is physical abuse going to help mental illness? It makes me sick to read about this. More sick when I ponder what if anything will be done.

In our practice, we have unfortunately seen similar abuse – and state and local authorities are hesitant to revoke facility licenses because there are no alternative facilities. Well I for one think being at home, would be a far better alternative than being abused by staff. Anyone agree?

The article also states “a lack of supervision led to patients attacking fellow patients, grabbing bottles of medicines from nurses’ stations and cutting themselves with shards of glass. Treatment plans were not fulfilled. The facility had broken windows and mold. It was too hot in summer and too cold in winter.

The report, dated June 6, offered several specific examples of abuse. It said that on April 24, a University Legal Services staff member witnessed a hospital worker punching a male resident “two times in the eye, calling him a racial epithet.” The child was taken to nearby Georgetown University Hospital for treatment.”

I would sue the hospital, and the staff – press criminal charges of assault. Something drastic needs to be done.

Please read the article – it is upsetting, but you need to read it. Ms. Johnson – we would love to hear what needs to be done now!

The article concludes, stating “This month, the Mental Health Department increased its monitoring of the hospital, Baron said. During weekly visits of at least five hours, a department representative talks with senior staff members and patients, reviews records and recommends improvements.
When asked whether children were safe at the hospital, Baron replied, “All that I can tell you is that we have not seen the need to decertify them.”
Baron said the department hopes the hospital improves rather than loses its certification.”

I can’t say I agree with Mr. Baron.

Lauren Ellerman

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.