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Employees, former patients blast conditions at Montana State Hospital in public comments

Posted at 3:27 PM, Mar 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 10:31:25-05

HELENA — A legislative committee heard public comments on Friday, March 4, about current conditions at the Montana State Hospital.

"That place is disgusting and makes me sick and I hope the feds take every bit of that money," said May Simmons, a former patient of the hospital.

The Children, Families, Health, and Human Services Interim Committee of the Montana Legislature listened to comments made by current employees, former patients, and advocacy leaders.

After a tour of the facility, Bernadette Franks-Ongoy, executive director of Disability Rights Montana blasted the living conditions endured by patients.

"As we were in the facility, there was not even bed linens for all the beds. There were people using other people's clothes because the laundry wasn’t getting done." Franks-Ongoy said.

Joel Peden, the executive director of the Montana Association of Centers for Independent Living, says that the disability community is frustrated with the conditions being reported about a facility meant to help people like them.

"Doesn’t seem to be a lot of anger and doesn’t seem to be a lot of frustration with the fact that people died. People died because they weren’t getting the care that they needed," said Peden.

The emergency meeting was held after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services placed the Montana State Hospital on Immediate Jeopardy status after finding the facility violated patient rights and infection prevention control.

The committee members heard proposals from panel members to remedy the situation.

These proposals included color-coded bracelets to assess fall risk, team meetings, and stakeholder input.

Adam Meier, the director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) says that the problem of staff shortage and those listed in the report would take some time to fix.

"I want to reiterate that these changes won’t happen overnight. We can make some improvements to the acute issues as much as we can, but it took us a long time to get here," said Meier.

DPHHS promised to resolve the situation before the March 13 deadline.