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Photo of naked mental patient investigated

June 23, 2009 at 11:59 PM

RALEIGH, N.C., June 23 (UPI) -- Two state mental hospital employees in North Carolina have been suspended while police investigate allegations a patient was photographed while partially naked.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services said the medical technicians are on paid leave from the Central Regional Hospital in Butner, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported. The State Bureau of Investigation and state police are involved in the case.

Michael Hennike, the hospital director, sent an e-mail to staff last week to remind them regulations forbid staff to use cell phones in patient areas.

Last year, after Disability Rights North Carolina sued over conditions at Butner and won a restraining order from a judge.

"We find it extremely disturbing that after all that has happened we

would still be investigating staff behavior that is so clearly inappropriate," said Vicki Smith, the group's executive director. "These folks are vulnerable. To be put in a position of being exploited by the very people who are supposed to be treating them is unconscionable."

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