Feds Accuse State Of Warehousing Children In Psychiatric Hospital

School-age children in medical masks. portrait of school children

(NewsReady.com) – Twenty-five years ago, in 1999, the US Supreme Court handed down its decision in Olmstead v. L.C., ruling that segregating people with disabilities constituted discrimination. State and local governments are required to ensure people with disabilities are placed in integrated settings and receive appropriate care. The Department of Justice (DOJ) just accused Rhode Island of warehousing kids in a mental hospital.

On May 13, the US Attorney’s Office for Rhode Island sent a letter detailing the findings of the years-long DOJ and Health and Human Services (HHS) investigation to Governor Saniel McKee and Ashley Deckert, the director of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). According to the findings, from January 2017 through September 2022, Bradley Hospital in Providence admitted 527 children who were either in DCYF custody or receiving voluntary services through the agency.

The children who were placed in the psychiatric hospital all had developmental disabilities or mental health issues. Of the kids admitted, 116 were in the hospital for more than 100 consecutive days during a single hospitalization. Seven kids were hospitalized for more than a year, and 42 were there for over 180 days.

The probe found many of the children were stuck in the hospital because DCYF didn’t bother to provide them with community-based care. The agency’s failure to look for home placements for the kids where they could receive services led to discharge delays and inappropriate placements after their discharge. That often led to more hospitalizations.

In a press release, Melanie Fontes Rainer, the HHS director of the Office of Civil Rights, said the investigation was an effort to “strengthen access to care for people with disabilities like [those] children.” She implored the country to “do better by our children” and ensure states were following civil rights laws that allow kids to “access care free from discrimination.”

During a press conference, US Attorney Zachary Cunha said the DOJ and HHS are holding the state solely responsible for the findings, not the hospital.

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