RI housed children with mental illness and developmental disabilities

Local News

BOSTON (AP) — Rhode Island violated the civil rights of lots of of youngsters with mental or developmental disabilities by routinely and unnecessarily housing them at Bradley Hospital, an acute psychiatric hospital, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Zachary Cunha, U.S. attorney for the District of Rhode Island, said the multi-year investigation found that the state — somewhat than fulfilling its legal obligation to offer services in essentially the most integrated environment appropriate to the youngsters's needs — kept her hospitalized in Bradley for months and in some cases for greater than a 12 months.

The findings were forwarded to Gov. Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families.

“It is nothing short of appalling that the state has chosen to place children in a mental health facility instead of committing to the community care, support and services that these children need and that the law requires,” Cunha said. He hopes the investigation will prompt the state to take swift motion to comply with its obligations under federal law.

The findings were forwarded to Gov. Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families.

“This troubling report identifies long-standing problems that clearly require improvement,” said Olivia DaRocha, a McKee staffer, “issues that are exacerbated by the nationwide shortage of home- and community-based behavioral health services.”

“While the government has taken steps to improve our current placement system, we understand that more needs to be done and we support DCYF's continued collaboration with the U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” she added. “Together, we will continue to seek short- and long-term solutions to provide appropriate services to every child with a behavioral disorder in the most integrated environment possible.”

Although inpatient admissions at Bradley are designed to last just one to 2 weeks, the federal investigation concluded that children with behavioral problems in DCYF's care were often forced to languish within the hospital although they were ready for discharge and Although the youngsters would even be higher cared for in a single-family home, investigators said.

From January 1, 2017 to September 30, 2022, 527 children who were within the care or custody of DCYF – or who were voluntarily cared for by the agency – were admitted to Bradley Hospital. Of these, 116 children were hospitalized for greater than 100 consecutive days on a single admission, 42 were hospitalized for greater than 180 days, and 7 were hospitalized for greater than a 12 months.

Many of the youngsters were subjected to avoidable and unnecessarily long hospital stays because DCYF didn’t provide them with the community-based services they needed, investigators said, only exacerbating the kid's acute needs.

According to Damaris Teixeira, a public information officer for the department, DCYF takes these findings very seriously.

Starting in November 2022, the department is working with Bradley Hospital and Hasbro Children's Hospital to expedite discharges to appropriate placements as quickly as possible, he said. The state also launched a brand new Mobile Response and Stabilization Services program to offer time-limited, on-demand crisis intervention services in all settings where a behavioral health crisis occurs, including homes, schools and emergency rooms.

So far, 90% of youth in this system haven’t required psychiatric hospitalization, he said.

The state can also be investing about $45 million to expand residential capability within the state, including a facility in Exeter that can serve 16 youth. The state legislature also appropriated $11 million to construct a 12-bed residential psychiatric facility to handle capability needs within the state.

The investigation, which was also conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights, also found that DCYF's failure to hunt placement options in a family home with services could end in each delayed discharges and inappropriate post-release placements. which in turn often results in further hospital stays.

Melanie Fontes Rainer, director of the Office of Civil Rights, said the investigation reinforces the agency's commitment to continuing to guard the proper of people to live in their very own homes and communities.

“We must do better for our children and the communities we serve, and states and others must follow federal civil rights laws to ensure every child has access to health care without discrimination,” she said.

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