FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
MONDAY, JUNE 3, 2002
PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL IN CONNECTICUT AGREES TO PROVIDE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION FOR PERSONS WHO ARE DEAF OR HARD OF HEARING
WASHINGTON, D.C.- Silver Hill Hospital, a psychiatric and substance abuse hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut, entered into a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice today to provide sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids and services to patients, their family members, and their companions who are deaf or hard of hearing. Silver Hill Hospital provides inpatient, outpatient, partial hospitalization, and transitional care to individuals who need mental health services.
"Ensuring equal access to mental health services is an important priority for the Justice Department," said Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "It is crucial that individuals with disabilities be able to access mental health services. If doctors and other mental health professionals cannot effectively communicate with their patients, health care is compromised."
The ADA requires health care providers to ensure effective communication with patients through the provision of interpreters, assistive technology, and other auxiliary aids and services. Under this agreement, a person who is deaf will be able to benefit from the same therapeutic services as every other patient. Under the agreement, Silver Hill Hospital will:
•Establish an effective communications program to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services;
•Ensure at all times that a designated staff member will be available to hospital staff, patients, and patient's companions, to answer questions and provide appropriate assistance regarding immediate access to auxiliary aids and services;
•Maintain a combination voice/TTY telephone line, which will be available to the public, and promptly respond to outside telephone inquiries;
•Participate in a state wide, on call system to provide qualified sign language and oral interpreters, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week;
•Install visual alarms where audible alarms are already provided;
•Provide an effective complaint resolution mechanism;
•Train employees and volunteers about issues relating to communication with persons who are deaf or hard of hearing; and
•Pay $25,000 in compensation to the individual who is hard of hearing and was affected by Silver Hill Hospital's failure to provide effective communication.
The Justice Department's investigation of Silver Hill Hospital was in response to a complaint filed with the Department by a woman who is hard of hearing and uses sign language as her primary means of communication. She sought out the services of Silver Hill Hospital for treatment of an eating disorder and therapy for her history of abuse. In her complaint, she alleged that throughout numerous inpatient and outpatient visits over the course of five months, Silver Hill denied her repeated requests to provide her with a sign language interpreter. As a result of these denials, she was unable to participate in prescribed counseling therapies and was unable to understand daily treatment procedures. The hospital, which fully cooperated with the investigation, denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to implement the remedies immediately.
Today's settlement regarding effective communication for people who are deaf or hard of hearing follows an agreement the Justice Department reached with thirty-two Connecticut Hospitals in August 1998.
Additional information about the ADA can be found by calling the Department's toll-free information line at (800)514-0301, (800)514-0383 (TDD) or the Department of Justice website at www.ada.gov.