State refers a third of complaints about Texas state hospitals back to hospitals

psychiatrist

With intense scrutiny of a few psychiatrists at state hospitals in recent months that have lost jobs for allegedly behaving badly in Texas or other states, the state agencies that watch them have also come under the microscope.

That continued Sunday with another report from the Austin American-Statesman, this time focused on the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

Reporter Andrea Ball focused on the pattern at DFPS of kicking certain complaints involving people with serious mental illnesses back to the publicly-funded hospitals.

In fiscal year 2011, the department sent 36 percent of its cases back to the hospitals because they involved issues such as medical care, patient rights or hospital policies.

Department spokeswoman Julie Moody said the agency is following the law, and, not surprisingly, mental health advocates don't like this approach, with one calling it "endemic of state agencies."

"I think they just don't deal with the complaints that come in. They don't take it seriously. Part of it is that they're underfunded, but part of it is the culture," Jim Harrington, with the nonprofit Texas Civil Rights Project, tells the Statesman.

A state auditor’s report in 2011 revealed that of 740 allegations of abuse or neglect at state hospitals reported to DFPS, 28 percent were determined to be inconclusive, unconfirmed or unfounded. The auditors looked at complaints over a roughly two-year period. The audit did not identify the number of cases DFPS sent back to hospitals.

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Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800.

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Photo of psychiatrist from 1958's 'Terror in the Haunted House' by flickr user spike55151, used via a Creative Commons license.