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Patients Challenge Isolation, Abuse, and Failed Treatment at Montana State Hospital

On August 15, 2016, four patients at Montana State Hospital sued state officials and staff for the isolation, abusive and deficient treatment they have been subjected to at the Hospital in Warm Springs. The lawsuit alleges that officials at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services as well as staff at the Montana State Hospital have violated state and federal law in their treatment of the four patients. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop these practices as well as damages for the patients for the harm they have suffered.

Two of the patients have been subjected to long-term isolation nearly 24 hours a day for more than a year. This has markedly worsened their conditions and caused them extreme psychological and emotional harm.

A third patient was subjected to a traumatic forced "take-down" in the Galen facility, which is administrated by the Montana State Hospital. This was done as punishment for his behavior, even though his behavior is a predictable result of his mental state and illness, which is why he was sent to the facility for treatment in the first place. The entire "take-down" was video recorded.

The fourth patient was subjected, like all others patients in the hospital, to a harsh, illogical, and nonsensical "level system." The "level system" forces patients to "earn" psychiatric treatment, or basic human privileges such as sleeping without the lights on. This system routinely punishes patients for infractions including small acts of kindnesses, like giving someone a cup of coffee.

"We rely on the Montana State Hospital to care for people with serious mental illnesses who need thoughtful, professional, and therapeutic interventions," said Bernie Franks Ongoy, executive director of Disability Rights Montana, which is representing these patients. "Instead these patients have been the victims of abusive, antiquated, and unprofessional treatment, which has made their conditions worse than when they arrived at the facility in the first place."

After the case was filed, District Court Judge Kathy Seeley set a hearing at which the defendants must show cause why a temporary restraining order should not be issued against them. This hearing was held September 19 - 20 and will continue on December 13, 2016.

A copy of the complaint can be obtained by clicking here