Historic Case Involving The Civil Rights Of Psychiatric Patients At Kings County Hospital Center Comes To A Close
Case Ends with Transformation in Patient Care and Treatment
Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, today announced the closing of its case against New York City over conditions of patient care and treatment in NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County, also known as Kings County Hospital Center’s Behavioral Health Service (“BHS”). In a letter dated January 10, 2017 to the Honorable Kiyo A. Matsumoto, Mr. Capers requested that Judge Matsumoto close the case because the BHS is in substantial compliance with the requirements of a January 2010 Consent Judgment between the United States and the City of New York. The Court granted that motion today.
The Consent Judgment was entered after the United States conducted an investigation of the BHS in 2008 and 2009 and concluded that it was failing to properly assess, diagnose, supervise, monitor, and treat its patients. The investigation also revealed violations of patients’ rights, including the improper use of chemical and physical restraints. Hospital Police assaulted patients and handcuffed them to beds and radiators. In a tragic incident in 2008, a patient, Esmin Green, was left unattended and died on the floor as clinical staff and hospital police ignored her. BHS also discharged patients to the community without adequate plans for their care. As a result, large numbers of patients returned to the facility. In addition, the facility was dilapidated and filthy.
In January 2010, the United States and the City entered into the Consent Judgment for the purpose of bringing about a complete overhaul of the BHS, including its initial triage procedures, its assessment and diagnostic procedures, and its treatment planning, as well as its medication management, nursing, discharge planning, and fire and life safety planning. Significantly, the Consent Judgment also included provisions for the reform of KCHC’s Hospital Police force.
In the seven years since the parties signed the Consent Judgment, the BHS has become a model acute care psychiatric facility. The BHS now addresses the critical needs of the vulnerable, mentally ill population that it serves. Its treatment plans and mental health care are individualized, person-centered, and recovery oriented. It has also developed clinical approaches to identify and address potential patient aggression and self-harm. As a result, suicide attempts and self-harm have dropped significantly. Nurses are more attentive and play a significant and assistive role in helping patients get better. Medication is used only for the purpose of treating patients and not for the purpose of controlling their behavior. In addition, the rate of recidivism has dropped sharply as a result of robust discharge planning. And, the BHS is now housed in a new building, which is well-lit, sanitary, and safe.
“This Office takes great pride in the transformation of the Kings County Hospital Center’s Behavioral Health Service and the dramatic improvements in patient care that have resulted from our collaboration with the City,” said U.S. Attorney Capers. “The remarkable changes at the BHS should ensure that tragedies like the death of Esmin Green never occur again.”
The case was handled by Michael J. Goldberger, Chief of Civil Rights in the Office’s Civil Division.