Vermont State Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Waterbury, is a "dehumanizing" place at which staff used restraints excessively and failed to provide a safe environment for patients, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said in a report, echoing earlier findings by the CMS. An investigation determined that conditions and services at the 56-bed hospital "substantially depart from generally accepted standards of care" and "certain conditions violate constitutional and statutory rights of patients," the report said. State officials said they have been working to correct systemic problems at the hospital since two patients committed suicide within a one-month period in 2003. The deaths prompted the CMS to pull the hospital's certification and withhold millions of dollars in federal funding.
Between 5% and 20% of patients were secluded or restrained from May 2003 to April 2004, compared with a national average of about 4%, the report said, concluding: "No one should expect individuals to achieve recovery when they reside in jail-like settings." Last month, the hospital entered into a clinical-services contract with Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington, which agreed to assess the hospital's clinical standards and design a plan for improvement within 120 days. -- by Michael Romano