Weiss EM. Groups call for reform in use of restraints;
Mental health providers react to reports of 142 deaths in facilities.
Hartford Courant 1998; October 24.
October 24, 1998
By ERIC M. WEISS; Courant Staff Writer
Organizations representing the nation's mental health care industry acknowledged Friday they need to study regulations and take action to reduce the number of restraint- related deaths in their facilities.
Also Friday, the nation's leading health-care accreditation agency said it will alert its 18,000 facilities to a nationwide pattern of restraint deaths and suggest strategies to prevent them. The organizations -- representing hospitals, psychiatrists and mental health care facilities -- were short on specifics, saying only that they would study the issue in expectation of congressional hearings next year.
The actions came in the wake of a Courant series reporting that 142 people died while or shortly after being restrained or secluded in psychiatric hospitals, mental retardation facilities or group homes over the past 10 years.
But because many cases go unreported, the number of these deaths may be 10 times higher, according to a statistical estimate commissioned by the newspaper.
U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D- Conn., has called for congressional hearings on the issue.
In a letter to the editor appearing in today's Courant, leaders of the American Hospital Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems said they will take steps to prevent these deaths.
"We were deeply saddened by the unfortunate deaths described in your recent series,'' the letter said. "As associations representing behavioral health care organizations and professionals, we agree that prevention of such tragedies is an absolute priority.''
The letter said the organizations would review existing regulations and oversight to ensure they safeguard patients.
Rick Wade, a senior vice president of the American Hospital Association, said one problem is that current restraint guidelines lack useful detail.
"The standards are vaguely worded and general in nature,'' Wade said, referring to guidelines issued by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. "We need good, clear standards that don't leave any doubts about how these things should be handled.''
A Joint Commission spokeswoman said the industry-funded accreditation organization is constantly upgrading its standards and will continue to do so.
The organization is also working on an "action alert'' to be sent to most of the nation's health-care organizations warning them of the dangers of restraint-related deaths.
The alert, scheduled to go out by the end of the year, will include suggestions on how to avoid these types of deaths. A Joint Commission spokeswoman said the proposed solutions have not been finalized.
Hartford Courant DECEMBER 16th-published Related Article:
USE OF IMPROPER RESTRAINTS WIDESPREAD, GROUPS SAY
How the Courant Conducted Its Investigation
"Glossary of Terms" used by the authors
Hartford Courant DEADLY RESTRAINT Investigation DATA BASE
DAY ONE; October 11: A Nationwide Pattern of Death
DAY TWO; October 12: Little Training, Few Standards, Poor Staffing Put Lives At Risk
DAY THREE; October 13: Patients Suffer In A System Without Oversight
DAY FOUR; October 14: People Die And Nothing Is Done
DAY FIVE; October 15: From "Enforcer" To Counselor
Hartford Courant October 17th-published Related Article:
REFORM URGED IN USE OF RESTRAINTS
U.S. LAWMAKERS RESPOND TO REPORT ON DEATHS