Washington, DC, psychiatric patients abused by staff, rights organization alleges

A report published last week by the nonprofit advocacy group Disability Rights DC alleging abuse and neglect of adult and adolescent patients by staff at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington is traumatizing and injuring patients.

According to Disability Rights DC, abuse allegations have increased since a similar report was published about the hospital last year. 

The increase of calls led the group to reinvestigate the hospital and its staff, who were accused of using drugs or other inappropriate methods of restraining patients, and illegally administering psychiatric medication to patients against their will.

"[A] videotape shows a striking lack of staff presence and effective staff interaction [at the hospital],” Andrea Procaccino, an attorney at Disability Rights DC, said in the report. "More and better trained staff were clearly needed to ensure the safety of these adolescents, who were exposed to a terrifying experience."

In response to the allegations, a statement sent by the hospital to the Washington Post said, "Incidents are thoroughly investigated by regulatory authorities and by our internal team, per standard procedure. Where appropriate, we implement operational changes. Due to HIPAA patient privacy laws, we cannot comment on specific patients or their care."

Disability Rights DC recommends the following to address the alleged abuse and neglect at the hospital: 

  1. Hiring of a hospital therapist specializing in trauma-informed care and preventing dangerous situations at psychiatric institutions.
  2.  Increased oversight of the hospital
  3. Accurate incident reporting and investigation regulations
  4. Adherence to all legal and policy requirements related to incidents and investigations
  5. Maintenance of proper staff-patient ratios to ensure safety
  6. Allowing Disability Rights DC to review all requested records and conduct outreach

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