State must put Bridgewater under control of Department of Mental Health

Thank you for Michael Rezendes’s Nov. 20 Ideas piece (“Recoil, reform, repeat: Can a notorious institution get better for good?”), which eloquently states the concerns that the the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Massachusetts has about the situation at Bridgewater State Hospital, a medium-security prison for civilly committed men.

Like Rezendes, NAMI Mass is wary that the changes proposed by the state will be enough to curb the vicious cycle of abuse that has plagued Bridgewater State Hospital for decades. Of all the requirements laid out in the Department of Correction’s request for response for the new contractor, the most troubling is that the Department of Correction will retain primary control of operations at Bridgewater. We fear that this will only impede the development of an appropriate therapeutic milieu and set the stage for future tragedy.

Massachusetts is one of only two states that allows its forensic hospital to be under the jurisdiction of its Department of Correction. NAMI Mass urges the state to take immediate action to move control of Bridgewater State Hospital to the Department of Mental Health and join the 48 states that have already done so.

Laurie Martinelli

Executive director