Since 2005 over 70 employees at Texas’ 10 state mental hospitals have been fired while dozens more have been disciplined for alleged physical abuse, including brutal beatings in some cases. The firings came to light yesterday in an article published by The Dallas Morning News.
Employees disciplined or fired routinely used chokeholds, headlocks and threats of violence to restrain patients at the hospitals, according to the article. In 2007, the state confirmed 137 cases of abuse against patients.
The state schools for people with disabilities, which have twice as many residents, have an average of 300 confirmed abuse cases per year. The U.S. Justice Department has had to intervene twice in recent years in these schools.
Hundreds of other employees have been fired for other violations, including sleeping on the job and overmedicating patients, the records show.
State officials say there will always be some reports of abuse and neglect in an institutional setting. And they say they take any allegations of mistreatment seriously. But the records show that as in other state-run facilities, abuse and neglect are systemic, The Dallas Morning News reported.
According to the newspaper, some mental health advocates fear the mentally ill patients in state hospitals may continue to face greater risks. Patients of the psychiatric hospitals are largely indigent, transient and not connected to their families, so they have few allies as they bounce through the mental health system.
In 2003, lawmakers stripped $100 million from the state’s mental health budget, funding that has only partially been replaced. Texas ranks 48th in the country in per capita funding for people with mental illness.
The Texas state psychiatric system has 18,000 patient admissions every year, patients who are overseen and cared for by over 7,400 employees. The state hospitals have approximately 2,500 patients daily.
Source: The Dallas Morning News