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The Boston Globe

Metro

Bridgewater State Hospital slow to embrace change

Resisted trend to more humane ways; harsh handling of mentally ill increased

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — Clinicians treating some of this state’s most dangerous mental health patients faced a crisis in 2002, when a patient cuffed hand and foot to the hospital floor choked on his tongue anddied of a heart attack. His family then sued, and the Justice Department began investigating whether the Whiting Forensic Division was violating patients’ rights by improperly isolating them and strapping them down.

So Whiting clinicians decided to join a growing movement to sharply limit how often agitated mental health patients are placed in seclusion rooms or physically restrained. They began rewarding good behavior so that patients were less likely to become violent in the first place, and trained staff in how to defuse confrontations.

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