Violence at Texas mental hospitals on rise

Jan. 27, 2013 at 2:13 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- State statistics show a dramatic 170 percent increase in patient-on-patient violence at Texas psychiatric facilities over the last five years.

Doctors at the facilities said part of the reason for the dramatic increase is due to better reporting by staff. Another reason cited is improved out-patient treatment of mental illness, meaning those institutionalized are among the most severely afflicted, the Austin (Texas) American Statesman said Sunday.

The newspaper's investigation found violence at all state-run hospitals has increased 22 percent since 2008, from 2,700 reports to 3,300 in fiscal year 2012. The vast majority of violent outbursts required no medical treatment or basic first aid. The American Statesman said workers' compensation claims have increased by 40 percent over the same time period, from 448 in 2008 to 629 in 2012.

Much of it stems from the state being responsible now for treating only the most severe cases, the report said.

"Local crisis systems are now better able to take care of the less extreme cases," said Texas Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Carrie Williams. "There are more outpatient opportunities in the community, so the patients that come to us are the most acutely ill with the most serious problems."

Advocates for the mentally ill said some of the problems stem from poor care and oversight at state-run hospitals.

"Too many patients are not appropriately supervised by staff and are also not engaged and have little or nothing to do with their time, despite the fact that adequate staffing and therapeutic engagement are recognized best practices for managing a healthy and safe hospital environment," said Beth Mitchell with the group Disability Rights Texas.

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