Feds accuse Rhode Island of warehousing kids with mental health, developmental disabilities

Boston.com posted this story from Steve LeBlanc of the Associated Press on the results of a federal investigation into the prolonged psychiatric hospitalization of children with behavioral issues: 

“Rhode Island violated the civil rights of hundreds of children with mental health or developmental disabilities by routinely and unnecessarily segregating them at Bradley Hospital, an acute-care psychiatric hospital, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Zachary Cunha, U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, said the multi-year investigation found that — rather than complying with its legal obligation to provide services in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of the children — the state left them hospitalized at Bradley for months and in some cases for more than a year. . . .  

Although inpatient admissions at Bradley are designed to last only one to two weeks, the federal investigation concluded that children with behavioral health disabilities in DCYF’s care were often forced to languish in the hospital despite being ready for discharge, and despite the fact that the children would be better served in a family home, investigators said.

From Jan. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2022, 527 children in the care or custody of DCYF — or receiving services voluntarily through the agency — were admitted to Bradley Hospital. Of these, 116 kids were hospitalized in a single admission for more than 100 consecutive days, 42 were hospitalized for more than 180 days, and seven were hospitalized for more than one year.

Many of the children were subjected to avoidable and unnecessarily lengthy hospitalizations because DCYF failed to provide the community-based services they need. . . . 

Starting in November 2022, the department has worked 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 new Mobile Response and Stabilization Services program to provide time-limited, on-demand crisis intervention services in any setting in which a behavioral health crisis is occurring, including homes, schools and emergency departments.

To date, 90% of the youth in the program did not end up requiring psychiatric hospitalization, he said.”

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