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In late November, we noted that three patient deaths, including a suicide that could have been prevented, have led to questions at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo. The hospital resorted to harmful restraints and even metal mirrors, which present distorted “funhouse” images to patients, that have been deemed counterproductive to patient care. Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut has convened a grand jury to review the recent hospital deaths in order to discover whether staff were criminally responsible, notes The Denver Post, which raises flags on another practice at the hospital: resident safety checks, which are done every 15 minutes, including throughout the night.
Patient Gary Hilton complains that he’s losing sleep: “They wake you up to make sure you’re breathing. It’s cruel and unusual punishment.” Liz McDonough, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Human Services, says all 185 criminally insane patients in the forensic units at the institute are checked as a “suicide-prevention” measure. Staffers try to avoid waking patients during the checks, but Hilton says they will sometimes turn on the lights in a patient’s room. If awakened, he adds, it is difficult to return to a deep sleep. McDonough says the checks will continue until the health department officially changes its policies.