EDITORIAL: Shocking accounts of abuse at Whiting Forensic Division

EDITORIAL: Shocking accounts of abuse at Whiting Forensic Division

Connecticut’s only maximum-security psychiatric hospital is in urgent need of supervision.

It is very disturbing to hear accounts of the abuse a Greenwich man says his brother suffered for years at the Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown. It is even more troubling to hear state authorities try to minimize what happened, and almost to excuse it.

Al Shehadi told lawmakers in Hartford that his brother was repeatedly abused by staff members at Whiting over a decade or more. He described seeing surveillance video of staff members flipping his brother out of bed, pouring liquids over his head, and mopping his head with a floor mop. He described around 50 incidents in a 24-day period, often occurring when his brother was asleep. He described staff members circling his brother's bed and kicking and tormenting him, creating “an atmosphere of almost constant menace.”

This testimony was met with surprise by Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, who said her agency is working to understand how it happened without the knowledge of higher-ups and despite continuous video surveillance, according to published reports.

Then Delphin-Rittmon told the General Assembly's Public Health Committee that the offenses were committed by a “pocket” of the Whiting staff. And yet, seven employees were fired after the abuse came to light, 10 were arrested, and at least 37 staff members were implicated in the abuse.

That’s some “pocket.”

How can it be that “there is such an absence of accountability that the staff feel free to abuse a patient knowing there is a camera in the room?” Shehadi asks. And why does DMHAS even bother with video surveillance at Whiting, if no one in authority ever views it?

That last question has been answered: We are told that a contractor has been hired to review the video.

But the other question stands, along with this one: What is the state going to do about this appalling situation?

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