Disability Rights DC has the authority to investigate allegations of neglect and abuse at mental health facilities in the city, and is able to review medical records, reports, and video footage of alleged incidents. The attorneys said reports of abuse to the PIW have only increased since their report last year, and just like in the previous study, they charge city agencies tasked with overseeing the establishment of go further to ensure patient protection.
“We would have expected an improvement after our first report, and instead we got more calls,” said Andrea Procaccino, an attorney at Disability Rights DC. “We haven’t seen any evidence that they were implementing meaningful changes that would prevent these things from happening.”
The additional calls spurred additional investigations, Procaccino said. The latest report, for example, describes an incident in May 2021, in which a teenager was allegedly stabbed in the cheek by another patient, causing a laceration, while staff at the facility failed to intervene.
“Videotape shows a striking lack of effective staff presence and interaction,” the report said, adding that police arrived an hour after the incident. “More and better trained staff were clearly needed to ensure the safety of these teenagers, who were exposed to a terrifying experience.” The report uses pseudonyms and includes hand-drawn still images from the videos to protect patient privacy.
In a statement, PIW said it is “dedicated to caring for and treating patients with compassion, dignity and respect” and has worked with thousands of patients over the years.
“The incidents are being thoroughly investigated by regulatory authorities and by our internal team, in accordance with standard procedure,” the statement said. “Where necessary, we implement operational changes. Due to HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] patient privacy laws, we cannot comment on specific patients or their care.”
DC Health and the Department of Behavioral Health, which share joint responsibility for monitoring PIW services, did not return a request for comment on the report.
Opened in 1967, PIW is located in Tenleytown and is the city’s only private, for-profit hospital that treats patients with psychiatric and substance abuse disorders. The hospital contains 130 beds; patients can be admitted on a voluntary or involuntary basis and typically stay for five to 10 days at a time, Procaccino said.
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The range of allegations includes instances where PIW staff used drugs or other inappropriate means to restrain patients – tactics that go against hospital policy, according to the report. The non-profit organization’s investigation revealed that a patient, ‘Sarah Simpson’, had been subdued twice using ‘unapproved techniques’; in one instance, six staff members allegedly converged on Simpson, knocking his head to the ground. Simpson called the situation traumatic, and Disability Rights DC alleges that PIW did not report any of the incidents to the Department of Behavioral Health until nearly three months later.
In the second incident, PIW staff allegedly ‘failed to provide timely medical attention’ to Simpson after he reported pain in his arm to staff, administering an X-ray which confirmed swelling five days after his complaint, according to the report. .
Another patient, ‘Maria Peters’, was allegedly dragged across the floor twice by a male member of hospital staff – the report says they called her ‘disgusting’ at several times and pushed her into a room.
“She indicated that she resisted being forced into the room because she was very frightened and worried that the staff member would sexually assault her,” the report said.
In addition to improper restraint, Disability Rights DC said it investigated incidents where PIW staff allegedly injected psychiatric drugs into patients against their will. A patient named “Sarah Miller” reported being told by PIW staff that she “must accept” medication even though she did not consent. The The report suggested the incident was in violation of DC law, which in most cases requires providers to obtain informed consent from a patient before administering mental health medication.
Among PIW’s recommendations to address the reported issues: increase staffing to ensure unit safety; hiring a consultant specializing in trauma-informed care; and more robust oversight from DC Health and the Department of Behavioral Health, “which must have reliable incident reporting and a robust investigation process,” the report said. The recommendation for increased monitoring also appeared in last year’s report. earlier this year, some advocates criticized the Department of Behavioral Health for inadequate oversight of PIWs, the Washington City Paper reported.
PIW’s parent company, Universal Health Services, paid $122 million to the federal and state governments in 2020, settling allegations that it provided inadequate services. Last week, the senses. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore) named Universal Health Services in an investigation into alleged abuse at treatment centers that house children. Universal Health Services did not return a request for comment.
Justin Wm. Moyer contributed to this report.