Victims and disability advocates disagree on treatment of patients at state’s maximum security psychiatric hospital

Linda Schwartz, co-chair of the whiting working group

Jill Kidik was stabbed multiple times in the arms, hands and shoulder as she fought for her life after a woman later found innocent due to mental retardation stabbed her twice in his neck, splitting his trachea nearly in half on the morning of May 17, 2018, she said.

It was the last day she wore a uniform as a Hartford police officer, Kidik wrote in testimony before the public health committee on Monday. It was also the last day “I woke up as a whole person,” she said.

Kidik and others whose lives have been irrevocably changed by an act committed by someone with serious mental illness oppose parts of SB 450, a bill that would revamp the practices of the forensic hospital in Whiting after a 2017 patient abuse scandal led to the arrest of nearly a dozen employees of the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

The bill was based on recommendations from a task force formed by the legislature in 2018 and tasked with reviewing the conditions, culture and operations of Whiting Forensic Hospital and Connecticut Valley Hospital that house patients with the most great mental health needs.

The proposed legislation would require the state to build a new facility to replace the Whiting Forensic Hospital with input from the families and guardians of those interned there and others with lived experience. The proposed law would also require DHMAS to conduct a full needs assessment of all patients and review the safety and standard of care for treatment at the new facility.

The bill would also strengthen the current advisory committee that is supposed to oversee the Whiting Forensic Hospital and create an oversight committee that would investigate complaints of patient abuse and neglect, and form a task force to determine whether the state psychiatric safety review board is still required.

Many patients at Whiting Forensic Hospital have been found innocent of crimes, including murder and aggravated assault, due to mental impairment or mental illness. Instead of being sentenced to prison, they were sent to a secure mental health facility for treatment until they could eventually recover and return to the community. The maximum term of recognizance is usually what their prison term would have been for the crime, said Monte Radler, a public defender who works with the state’s Insanity Defense Unit.

Those committed to Whiting and CVH by the courts fall under the jurisdiction of the State Psychiatric Safety Review Board, which reviews reports of those committed to a mental health facility through the courts every six months and holds a hearing every two years on each person. under their supervision to determine if they are in the correct level of care.

But Radler and others said patients can find themselves trapped in the system, spending years beyond the court’s intended recognizance, as the PSRB has repeatedly denied their requests for community release.

The need for the new building is clear, said co-chairs of the Whiting Forensic Hospital task force, Linda Schwartz, clinical associate professor of nursing at Yale University, and Michael Lawlor, former lawmaker and undersecretary of justice. of the Office of State Policy and Management. is now a professor of law at the University of New Haven.

“If you go there, it’s like stepping back into the 1960s,” Schwartz said during a briefing held on the task force’s recommendations ahead of the public hearing on the bill on Monday.

“I’ve been to every prison in Connecticut many times,” Lawlor said. “I don’t think this place would be appropriate for a prison.”

In addition to a new building, the task force recognized that there had to be a change in culture and mission, otherwise the abuse allegations would continue. “If you don’t consider all the recommendations we’ve made, changing the building won’t work,” said task force member Nancy Alisberg. The task force agreed that the PSRB’s review of cases every two years was too long, Schwartz said. The task force report also stated that the majority of members believed the PSRB should be disbanded, leaving the decision to release patients to hospital clinicians.

But prosecutors and those affected by violent crimes committed by seriously mentally ill people are against the plan to examine whether the PSRB is still necessary and against a provision in the law that would allow the hospital to determine if the person is eligible for a short period of release.

“Many of us are at great risk ourselves, having been specifically threatened before,” said Ingrid Justin, whose 21-year-old daughter, Johanna Justin-Jinich, was shot and killed in 2009 at a city cafe. ‘Wesleyan University by a man who is now hosted. at Whiting Forensic Hospital. “These are not theoretical threats or freedom of expression. The man who killed Johanna has proven himself by following through on her threats.

Justin said in his written testimony that there is “absolutely” a need for the PSRB which is an independent review board that is separate from the hospital system and pressures. “The PSRB, with 37 years of experience, represents the interests of the community as a whole as well as victims and ensures adequate plans for the successful transition of patients into the community,” said Justin. “Most importantly, the PSRB is a known and proven entity. The SB 450 unnecessarily recreates a system that already works very well for weighing competing interests: the patient, the surrounding community, and people who have been seriously injured in the past by the patient.

For Kidik, who had to end her police career due to the severity of her injuries, the bill changes the parameters of what she was promised when her attacker was found not guilty of mental retardation and instead committed than sentenced to prison in August.

“I consider myself a strong person, not the same type of strength as before May 17, 2018, but strong,” Kidik said. “But the idea of ​​my attacker being free, even for a few hours, in the voice of one voice, unless you have endured what she put me through, you will not know never the kind of feeling it gives me.”

About Antoine L. Cassell

Check Also

India records success with BP treatment and control

India’s hypertension control initiative, launched in 2018, has expanded to over 100 districts India’s hypertension …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.