State officials pledged to review the treatment of a man who fatally stabbed two people at a home and mall and wounded several others hours after being released from a hospital where his family said he was taken while suicidal and depressed.
Morton Hospital in Taunton, Massachusetts, said state policy that governs the way it handles psychiatric patients is "misguided."
Arthur DaRosa's family said he had been battling mental illness in recent months and checked himself in to Morton Hospital on Monday evening. He was released Tuesday morning and hours later fatally stabbed an 80-year-old woman in her home and a 56-year-old teacher dining out at a mall with his wife before being shot and killed by an off-duty sheriff's deputy.
Morton Hospital released a statement Thursday afternoon banning their third-party contractor "Norton Emergency Services AKA Taunton/Attleboro Emergency Services from evaluating or recommending treatment for any patient at Morton Hospital."
The subcontractor "is charged by law with the responsibility of evaluating MassHealth patients who enter the Morton Hospital Emergency Department."
The hospital said the subcontractor "failed to evaluate multiple patients in our Emergency Department in a timely way and when Morton Hospital proposed to do the evaluations ourselves we were rebuffed or ignored by the subcontractor. This inability of the state subcontractor to provide critical and timely services continues to put patients at risk."
The hospital plans to provide its own evaluation services going forward.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declined Thursday to address specifics of the case or current state policies, but promised the state would investigate procedures.
"This was a horrible, terrible tragedy and emotions are running high and there is a lot of information out there," Baker, a Republican, told reporters. "The thing we need to do is figure out exactly what happened and why and then make adjustments based on that to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Morton spokeswoman Julie Masci said in a statement that the hospital is barred by federal law from acknowledging patient names or disclosing patient information. But the statement outlined what the hospital said is state policy on handling mentally ill patients on Medicaid.
"Morton Hospital has been advocating for years that the state review and revise its policies that require outside third-party vendors to evaluate and determine the course of treatment for Medicaid patients in emergency departments," the statement said. "As we have said in the past, the current policy mandating that the evaluation process must be carried out by a third party state contractor is misguided."
Hospitals should be allowed to have their own psychiatrists and clinicians assess patients, Masci said.
The hospital said psychiatric beds were available Monday.
"If the state contracted agency responsible for conducting evaluations in the emergency department had requested an admission to a psychiatric bed, there were beds available within the hospital's network."
DaRosa's aunt Liz DaRosa said the killings could have been prevented had the hospital kept him longer rather than discharging him.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts health and human services agency, said it was deeply saddened by the "senseless and tragic events" and would fully cooperate with the criminal investigation. Officials also planned to "carefully review the details of this situation."
State policy allows for a psychiatric evaluation to determine if a person can be hospitalized involuntarily for a period of up to three days. The hospitalization can be ordered if the evaluation determines there is a likelihood of "serious harm" because of mental illness.
The state Department of Mental Health operates an emergency services program that responds to the Morton Hospital emergency room upon request, officials said.
Arthur DaRosa left his daughter's soccer practice on Tuesday evening, crashed his car then entered a home at random and stabbed two women, Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn III said. Patricia Slaving, 80, later died.
He then drove to the Silver City Galleria mall several miles away and stabbed two people in a Bertucci's restaurant, Quinn said.
George Heath, 56, a high school visual arts teacher, was stabbed trying to defend a waitress, and he later died.
DaRosa was shot and killed by off-duty Plymouth County Sheriff's Deputy James Creed.