Alleged patient abuse in state run hospital; state leaders react as questions into abuse persist

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MIDDLETOWN --  Questions into how the alleged patient abuse at Connecticut’s maximum security psychiatric hospital was allowed to go on and go unreported still persist.

Since the abuse allegations first surfaced in the spring of 2017, 37 staff members have been suspended from the Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital.  10 of those workers were arrested and charged with multiple counts of cruelty to a person.

The abuse described in police records ranged from taunting to physical abuse.  Some of the abuse police documented included a male nurse straddling the patient’s head while he laid in bed and another worker putting an adult diaper on the patient’s head.

The disturbing nature of the allegations sparked the Public Health Committee to hold an extensive hearing session Monday.  In that hearing, several questions of oversight and leadership were raised.

The brunt of those questions were aimed at the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services who oversees the hospital.

“It is indeed very troubling that 37 staff have been implicated in these incidents and that these abuses were not reported to Whiting staff themselves,” Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon said during her testimony Monday.

The commissioner is a state appointed position.  Wednesday, FOX61 took the questions of accountability directly to the Governor.

Governor Dannel Malloy pointed a bigger finger at the workers who may have known about the abuse and did not report it.

“I’ve been to that facility, I’ve toured that facility and no one brought it to the commissioner’s attention or my attention, that’s what’s so very disappointing about this,” Malloy said.  He went on to say he stands by Delphin-Rittmon.

“I think quite frankly the commissioner is doing a good job and brought this to light and has cooperated in what has been the prosecution of people who were clearly breaking the law and they should be held accountable,” Malloy said.

Other state leaders, however, argue the accountability should come from the top down.

“There’s one glaring thing that came up in the hearings on Monday is that there seems to have been some sort of oversight gap in terms of supervision in this particular facility which lead to sort of the gross abuses that have been alleged,” Democratic State Representative Jonathan Steinberg said.  Steinberg is also a member of the Public Health Committee.

The Committee pointed out this week that one of their major concerns with the so-called "lack of oversite" is that Connecticut Valley Hospital is not licensed with Connecticut’s Department of Public Health.  The DPH told FOX61, CVH falls under an old law that exempts hospitals intended for mental health and addiction treatment to be required to be licensed.

The Committee said they will not raise that issue in the upcoming legislative session in early 2018.

“One thing we are considering or at least contemplating at this point is to assure that there is umbrella oversight over the entire institution which may require some changes to statutes, including giving the department of Public Health more oversight responsibility than it has currently,” Steinberg explained.

CVH is certified by CMS, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid.  That certification was threatened recently as a series of inspections showed “deficiencies” within the hospital.

The Public Health Committee said when they hear back from DMHAS on the several issues they raised with the commissioner, they will decide whether to have more hearings or whether to begin drafting legislation requiring additional oversight at the hospital.