WPAS files lawsuit against Eastern State Hospital

8/6/2002
News
Craig Awmiller

On December 13, 2001, the Washington Protection and Advocacy System (WPAS) filed a class action lawsuit in federal court.  This lawsuit alleges that the services provided to individuals with developmental disabilities who are living at Eastern State Hospital do not meet the minimum standards of care which are guaranteed by the United States Constitution.  In addition, the lawsuit alleges that community supports and services in Eastern Washington for individuals with developmental disabilities who have mental health needs are inadequate.

This lawsuit was filed after many months of investigation by WPAS staff.  Dr. William Gardner, Ph.D., and Dr. Mark Fleisher, MD, also helped WPAS staff with this investigation.  In his report to the Court, Dr. Gardner said that people with developmental disabilities who live at Eastern State Hospital do not receive adequate treatment.  Dr. Fleisher also found  that the conditions of care for these people was not within the range of accepted standards of care.  Both Dr. Gardner and Dr. Fleisher felt that Eastern State Hospital needed to do a much better job caring for people with developmental disabilities.

Some of the problems at Eastern State Hospital alleged in this lawsuit include, but are not limited to:

·         Treatment with excessive, inappropriate, and dangerous medications for people with developmental disabilities.

·         Eastern State Hospital places vulnerable patients with developmental disabilities on wards where there is a greater risk of being both physically and sexually abused.

·         Eastern State Hospital fails to protect people with developmental disabilities from harm.

·         People with developmental disabilities residing at Eastern State Hospital are placed in seclusion and restraint too much.

·         Eastern State Hospital does not give people with developmental disabilities much appropriate psychological therapy.

·         Eastern State Hospital does not adequately plan for the treatment that it provides to people with developmental disabilities.

  • Eastern State Hospital does not sufficiently help people with developmental disabilities find safe places to live after they leave the hospital.
  • Eastern State Hospital does not employ enough staff who are trained to work with people with developmental disabilities.
  • People with developmental disabilities sometimes have to stay at Eastern State Hospital for a long time even after they are ready to leave.
  • Due to the conditions of care for people with developmental disabilities at Eastern State Hospital, some people who go there get worse instead of better.
  • Eastern State Hospital does not help people with developmental disabilities learn how to work or how to get a job.

Because these problems and the inadequate services in the community were causing people with developmental disabilities to suffer immediate harm, the staff at WPAS decided that a lawsuit was probably the only way to make sure that these problems get fixed quickly and appropriately.

The staff at WPAS decided to file a lawsuit for another reason. On December 2, 1999, in a federal court agreed motion, the state of Washington recognized that it needed to give better services to people with developmental disabilities who lived at Western State Hospital, in Tacoma. Even though this was quite awhile ago now, the state of Washington has not yet given these same services to people with developmental disabilities who live at Eastern State Hospital.

Because this lawsuit against Eastern State Hospital alleges so many serious problems, it could take a long time before all of these problems get fixed.  In the coming months, there will be more articles in the Envoy about this lawsuit and about these problems at Eastern State Hospital.  These articles will explain how the lawsuit is progressing and if the problems are getting fixed.The staff at WPAS hopes that these problems will get fixed soon.

If you have any questions about this lawsuit, please call Mark Stroh at (800) 562-2702.