WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with the State of Vermont regarding civil rights violations in Vermont State Hospital, a hospital for persons with mental health problems, in Waterbury, Vermont. The four year agreement, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Vermont, requires the State to implement reforms to ensure that patients in the facility are adequately protected from harm and provided adequate services including mental health care.
The Department’s investigation revealed numerous civil rights violations. The hospital fails to protect patients from suicide hazards and undue restraint, fails to provide adequate psychological and psychiatric services, and fails to ensure adequate discharge planning and placement in the most appropriate, integrated setting. Under the terms of the agreement, the State will address and correct all of the violations identified by the Department.
“One of the Attorney General’s stated priorities is protecting the civil rights of all Americans, including these vulnerable institutionalized persons,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “People with mental health problems in the care of the State are entitled to be safe and provided with adequate treatment.”
The Civil Rights Division conducted its investigation pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980 (CRIPA). The statute allows the federal government to identify and root out systemic abuses such as those identified in this case, rather than focus on individual civil rights violations.
The Civil Rights Division has successfully resolved similar investigations of other psychiatric facilities and has pending investigations concerning psychiatric facilities in Connecticut, Oregon and the District of Columbia.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is pleased that the Civil Rights Division and the State of Vermont were able to reach a resolution on this important matter,” said Thomas D. Anderson, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont. “We applaud the leadership of Governor James Douglas and his administration in this case, and the State’s prompt implementation of the reforms embodied in the agreement.”
The Department of Justice’s enforcement effort reaches beyond psychiatric facilities. Since 2001, the Department of Justice has opened 62 similar investigations into the terms and conditions of confinement at nursing homes, mental health facilities, residences for persons with developmental disabilities, juvenile justice facilities, jails, and prisons.
More information about the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division can be found at www.usdoj.gov/crt/split/index.html.