Broadside: Locked Seclusion of the Mentally Ill

Some say that Bridgewater State Hospital is treating mental illness patients and prisoners. This resulted in the death of one patient, 23-year-old Joshua Messier. In addition, The Boston Globe featured the story of a lawsuit targeting Bridgewater by Joanne Minich, who says her son Peter's mental health is rapidly declining because of his treatment at Bridgewater.

"Patients like our current client, Peter Minich, who suffers from schizophrenia and has never been convicted of a crime, and are routinely incarcerated at Bridgewater and locked behind solid steel doors in prolonged isolation,” wrote Attorney Eric MacLeish.

MacLeish, who was a lead attorney in the church sex abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston, joined NECN to discuss the recent backlash Bridgewater State Hospital is experiencing.

“These people are paranoid schizophrenics- incompetent- that allows them to be sent to Bridgewater for evaluations on crimes that would never lead to incarceration and once they’re there, they’re allowed to stay there indefinitely,” MacLeish said. “We are the only state in the country that does this to people not convicted of crimes.”

The Mass. Department of Corrections responded to accusations.

“We view the use of seclusion and restraint as a measure of last resort to protect patients from each other, from themselves and to keep staff safe,” the department released in a statement.

MacLeish says that even after Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick addressed the actions of Bridgewater State Hospital, conditions did not improve.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of empathy when people die- when Mr. Messier died- when Mr. Minich has been secluded, but unless it’s happening to us, it’s not something we care about,” MacLeish explained.

MacLeish says a way to resolve this issue is to implement an outpatient commitment law.

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