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Advocates Claim Wyoming State Hospital Still Unsafe
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 11, 2005

CHEYENNE, WYOMING--Wyoming's Protection & Advocacy System, Inc. filed a lawsuit Monday against the state claiming it endangers the health and safety of mental health patients at the Wyoming State Hospital.

The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, claimed that dangerous conditions still exist at the institution, two years after the state settled another lawsuit filed by P&A in 1994. In the January 2002 settlement, the state agreed to provide adequate staffing at WSH, along with developing community-based services.

In the 32-page complaint filed Monday, the organization claims that the state has allowed its mental health care system to deteriorate, the Associated Press reported. The institution has not hired enough staff to provide adequate supervision, allowing some patients to hide medications and to get sharp instruments and other weapons. This has lead to a greater risk that patients will try to commit suicide.

The suit also alleges that adolescents are being housed in an adult criminal ward, and claims that the state got in the way of P&A's attempts to gain access to patients and their records.

The suit names Gov. Dave Freudenthal, Wyoming Department of Health Director Deborah Fleming and Wyoming State Hospital Administrator Pablo Hernandez. It asks the federal court to declare that the state has violated the 2002 settlement and to force it to follow the terms of the agreement.

The organization said it would sue over conditions at the institution after it investigated the death of a patient who either jumped or fell from a vehicle in 2003.

"There were no other remedies," Jeanne Thobro, P&A's executive director, told the Associated Press about the suit. "This is a last resort."

Wyoming Protection & Advocacy, Inc.


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