Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Reforms sought in restraint of mentally ill at state hospitals

Eight incidents of inappropriate force and restraint have been documented at four state psychiatric hospitals since July, prompting an advocacy group Monday to call for reforms.

In Michigan, hospitals can restrain patients only with physicians' orders. They must be checked every 15 minutes to ensure they aren't hurting themselves and to prevent instances such as the 2006 death of Timothy Souders while restrained in a Michigan prison.

The state's Office of Recipients Rights, which investigates complaints, has recommended hospitals stop the practice, but the suggestion has been ignored, according to the advocacy group that is federally mandated to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

"This abuse can no longer continue," said Elmer Cerano, executive director of the Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service. "People's lives are at risk."

State health officials say they are aware of the issue and are working to correct the problem.

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