24 Connecticut Valley Hospital workers suspended over abuse claims

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MIDDLETOWN — State health officials say more than 20 employees at a Connecticut psychiatric hospital have been suspended amid allegations of patient abuse at the maximum-security facility.

The Hartford Courant reports officials said Monday that 24 employees, including 2 managers, at the Whiting Forensic Division at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown were suspended. That's up from 11 employees when the investigation was confirmed on April 4.

"I have never seen anything of this magnitude and I've spent most of my professional life working in this area of the law," said John Williams, a renowned New Haven civil rights attorney, reacting to the number of employees placed on paid leave, which more than doubled in three weeks.

The state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has declined to discuss the nature of the allegations. The agency has said that the employees may be subject to discipline that could include dismissal if the allegations are substantiated.

"That level of brutality and mistreatment cannot go on without it being known by the people, who are supposedly running the store," said Williams.

Whiting Forensic Division acting director Thomas Ward-McKinley was among those suspended.

"For the Commissioner to take action like that indicates that much more likely than not that there's plenty of fire where that smoke is," said Williams.

The state Department of Public Health and Addictions Services said, in a statement: "If the allegations are substantiated, the employees will go through the appropriate disciplinary process, and may be subject to discipline up to and including dismissal from state service."

Williams believes DMHAS Commissioner, Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, deserves the gratitude of the public "For having the gumption to step up to the plate and do the right thing in a case like this where, for bureaucratic reasons, it's not an easy not an easy thing to do."

Since 2013, if you are a mandated reporter in Connecticut, it is now a criminal offense if you fail to report suspicions of abuse or neglect.