Leonora LaPeter Anton, Michael Braga, and Anthony Cormier, Tampa Bay Times (via Ritholtz):
Florida’s state-funded mental hospitals are supposed to be safe places to house and treat people who are a danger to themselves or others.
But years of neglect and $100 million in budget cuts have turned them into treacherous warehouses where violence is out of control and patients can’t get the care they need.
Since 2009, violent attacks at the state’s six largest hospitals have doubled.
Nearly 1,000 patients ordered to the hospitals for close supervision managed to injure themselves or someone else.
state officials have no way to know how much violence occurs at their own facilities.
Since 2005, DCF administrators have steadily relaxed reporting requirements so that hospitals no longer need to disclose most patient injuries. The reports that have been filed are in such disarray that accurately comparing them over time is impossible.
Instead of hiring more guards, adding nurses or increasing counseling sessions for patients, DCF and state lawmakers kept cutting.
From 2011 to 2013 alone — at the same time violent incidents rose across the state — former DCF Secretary David Wilkins oversaw $61 million in cuts from the hospitals, more than 15 percent of their funding.
The hospitals eliminated almost a third of their workforce.
In 2010, state health inspectors discovered
raw chicken dripping blood on top of hard boiled eggs that were about to be served to patients.
In 2013, inspectors found fire extinguishers in a cabinet that had
been painted shut. The central alarm in one building no longer triggered an alert, putting 300 patients at risk. It had been broken for two years.
In 2015, some patients had no air conditioning. Others found roaches in their cake.
One patient had his scalp split to the bone and wound up in a coma because his rival thought he had “demonic powers.” A female counselor left alone with a patient was beaten so badly she now uses a cane to walk. At the hospital in Macclenny, a man lost two fingers when he was trapped in a room and a patient slammed the door on his hand.
It’s amazing reporting.