Suicide Lawyer Weighs in on Problems at Vermont Mental Health Facility

Jul 2015

National suicide malpractice attorney Skip Simpson says problems highlighted in news reports about Rutland Medical Health Services in Montpelier, Vermont, serve as a reminder that facilities around the country must take all steps to ensure the safety of patients – and now!

“Until there is a culture of safety instead of a culture of making a profit at the expense of safety nothing will change,” said Simpson.

Simpson commented on a July 11 Associated Press story published in the Rutland Herald and other publications (“Lawmakers hear of problems at Rutland Mental Health”). According to the article, Rutland Mental Health Services may close because of a pattern of deficiencies. These include improper use of restraints and failure to lock up medication. One client of the facility who had been on a waiting list for treatment for six months died by suicide.

“As an attorney who has represented families who have lost loved ones because of negligence by healthcare facilities, I see these types of patterns at other facilities across the country,” Simpson said. “I do hope that legislative efforts can lead to improvements. Often, a state is slow to react when a pattern of deficiencies comes to light.

“My job is not to file frivolous lawsuits against these facilities. I want to see healthcare providers do a better job of protecting their clients. Unfortunately, the mental health industry often is resistant to making changes that will improve safety and protect their clients. As a last resort, a lawsuit sometimes is necessary.”

In Montpelier, legislators have recommended that Rutland Mental Health Services be removed from its position as the Rutland region’s main provider of mental health services. According to the AP report, some members of the House Human Service Committee expressed alarm that the state had not acted more quickly to a series of abusive, life-threatening situations, including the suicide of a client.

Simpson said suicide is the third leading cause of death for young adults and the 10th leading cause of death for the general population.

According to the most recent statistics from the American Association of Suicidology, in 2013 41,149 people in the United States died by suicide.  That statistic breaks down to 112.7 per day.

The AAS states that Vermont ranks 10th nationwide in terms of suicides. There were 112 deaths in 2013, or a rate of 17.9 deaths per 100,000 population.

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