Montana Psychiatric Hospital Is Poorly Managed and Negligence Has Hastened Patient Deaths, Lawsuit Alleges| Trending Viral hub

HELENA, Mont. — Montana’s state psychiatric hospital has been so poorly managed for decades that patients are not safe and are not treated with dignity and respect, which, combined with a pattern of understaffing, lack of training and neglect, has hastened death of two patients, a lawsuit filed this week states. .

The families of Lucio DiMauro and David Patzoldt, and patient Lesley Jungers, filed a federal lawsuit in Butte on Tuesday alleging that low-income residents with mental health problems are “systematically abused and neglected” at Montana State Hospital .

“This case seeks to hold those in power accountable for the completely avoidable harms to these plaintiffs, and to force changes so that these tragedies do not happen to others,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit names Gov. Greg Gianforte, director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services, and the director of the state hospital along with the state and its health department.

State law prohibits any form of abuse or neglect of persons admitted to a mental health facility, requires that their privacy and dignity be protected, that they have adequate medical supervision and treatment, and that they live in a humane environment that is comfortable and safe. It also requires regular cleaning and maintenance and that the facilities are kept in good condition.

Montana State Hospital violates those laws and its patients’ constitutional rights to dignity and due process, the lawsuit claims. The facility is located in Warm Springs, a town of about 600 people about 23 miles (37 kilometers) northwest of Butte.

Spokespeople for the governor’s office and the health department said they generally do not comment on ongoing litigation.

DiMauro, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2012, was admitted to Montana State Hospital in September 2020. He was regularly overmedicated, suffered numerous falls of which his guardian was not notified, contracted COVID-19, and on August 5, 2020 was diagnosed with colon cancer, according to the complaint. A doctor expected him to live three to six more months, according to the complaint.

Staff administered DiMauro morphine, a pain reliever, and an anti-anxiety medication every three hours until his death, just 13 days later. As his health deteriorated, his sister requested that the Catholic sacraments of last unction be performed, but that did not happen, the lawsuit states. Staff also failed to treat a wound on his forehead that he suffered in a fall, the lawsuit states.

Patzoldt, then 75 years old, was admitted to Montana State Hospital on Oct. 19, 2021, after experiencing behavioral disturbances in a memory care facility. He had numerous health problems and mental health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and congenital heart failure.

Four months later, Patzoldt died of sepsis, COVID pneumonia and cellulitis, or deep skin infections. He also had pressure ulcers. A review of his records found that he was not given his heart medications for nearly three weeks in November 2021, the lawsuit states.

Jungers, a current patient, was admitted to the state hospital for treatment for bipolar 1 disorder, but escaped from her room several times, even when she was supposed to be under individual supervision. She has also been diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia, the complaint states.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services stopped paying Montana State Hospital for treating patients in April 2022, saying it was inadequately staffed, repeatedly endangered patients and failed to correct problems even after being told he risked losing federal funds. .

CMS said the deficiencies contributed to the deaths of at least four patients, a serious assault and a COVID-19 outbreak, and that the death of a fifth patient was not properly investigated. That patient had been told to stop being so dramatic and go back to her room when she complained that she couldn’t catch her breath. She was found dead 45 minutes later.

With its large budget surplus, the 2023 Montana Legislature allocated a $300 million investment in the state’s behavioral health system. A commission is expected to make its recommendations next July.

The health department has also hired a consulting company to temporarily manage all state services. health care facilities and make recommendations for improvements.

The lawsuit asks a federal judge to order the state to provide a safe environment for patients in state hospitals, maintain the staff necessary to provide proper treatment and meet patients’ basic needs along with actual and compensatory damages.

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