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District Renews Partnership With University Legal Services to Benefit Individuals with Disabilities

Thursday, October 27, 2011

District Renews Partnership With University Legal Services to Benefit Individuals with Disabilities

Recent lawsuit settlement acknowledges substantial improvements at Saint Elizabeths.

Media Contact:
Linda Wharton Boyd (EOM)
linda.wharton-boyd@dc.gov
(202) 727-5011

Phyllis Jones (DMH)
phyllis.jones@dc.gov
(202) 673-1937 desk
(202) 631-3077 mobile

The District of Columbia has settled a six-year-old lawsuit filed by University Legal Services (ULS) that alleged abuse and neglect at Saint Elizabeths Hospital, the District’s inpatient psychiatric facility, and has renewed its partnership with ULS to monitor psychiatric care.

While the city believes the claims would not have been substantiated, the District settled the lawsuit to avoid protracted and costly litigation. The settlement renews the partnership between the hospital and ULS and speaks to the substantial improvement made since the suit was filed in 2005.

“We welcome the partnership with ULS that the settlement represents because we share the same goal: high-quality patient care,” said Mayor Vincent C. Gray.

Under the settlement, ULS agreed to withdraw its request for a court-ordered active role in hospital operations and the District agreed to provide $175,000 to pay for a ULS advocate for three years. The advocate will serve individuals who may be victims of abuse and neglect at Saint Elizabeths, in private community hospitals and at the District’s emergency-psychiatric-care clinic.

In addition, ULS will receive electronic cards to allow its representatives access to the hospital in order to support their mandated monitoring activities and regularly receive information affecting Saint Elizabeths patients. ULS also will participate in external monitoring visits.

The settlement also recognizes improvements at the hospital since 2005. Saint Elizabeths has hired additional psychiatrists and registered nurses to ensure more individualized, quality clinical care. With treatment and responsible discharge planning, the number of patients at Saint Elizabeths has been reduced to about 280 from more than 500 patients when the lawsuit was filed. Moreover, the hospital moved into a new state-of-the art facility in May 2010 suitable for modern inpatient care.

Mayor Gray commended Stephen T. Baron, Director of the District’s Department of Mental Health and Dr. Patrick J. Canavan, CEO of Saint Elizabeths, for their leadership in this settlement.