G. Wayne Miller
The Providence Journal
Published 6:10 p.m. ET Mar. 8, 2021
PROVIDENCE — The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island is calling for “an immediate moratorium on disputed patient discharges at Eleanor Slater Hospital,” a situation that has left many relatives and guardians of discharged patients desperately seeking appropriate care.
In a statement released Monday evening, association executive director Laurie-Marie Pisciotta said, “We are in this troubling situation because the Raimondo administration ordered the closing of Eleanor Slater Hospital’s civil commitment facilities to save money during an economic crisis.”
She added: “The Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals was given the impossible task of discharging patients to lower levels of care that currently do not exist in Rhode Island. The State has not invested in the full continuum of behavioral health care, and we are left with a dilapidated, broken, insufficient system.”
The statement follows explosive revelations last week by Normand L. Decelles Jr., the retired physician administrator/medical director at Zambarano Hospital, the Burrillville campus ofSlater Hospital, which also has buildings in Cranston. Decelles alleged the hospital’s administrators stopped all medical admissions starting in February 2020. Since then, an as yet-unknown number of patients have been discharged.
The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island on Monday evening also asked the GeneralAssembly to create a joint committee to “take comments from the public. Communityadvocates, patients’ family members, and providers at Eleanor Slater Hospital should be heard.”
The association and other mental health advocates also requested a meeting with Gov. DanMcKee “to discuss our concerns, as well as policy and process recommendations. We don’t want to be obstructionist; we want to help the State find a solution that meets the needs of patients and the State. There are alternatives we can explore.”
And the association asked BHDDH “for more transparency around patient evaluations and a commitment to honor patients’ choice in whether to discharge from the hospital or to return to it if they find that a nursing home does not meet their needs. Patients should not be subject to a stressful appeals process to keep from losing life-sustaining care.”
The association also noted that Rhode Island law gives patients the right to appropriate treatment “and individual treatment plans, which necessarily include discharge planning.Many of the patients who are being forced to discharge from Eleanor Slater Hospital have already failed lower levels of care, like nursing homes. Right now, there is no other place inRhode Island better equipped to care for them than Eleanor Slater Hospital.”