Today’s Brockton Enterprise featured anothe front page story about the MNA/NNU’s concerns about staffing at the Brockton Multi-Service Center, which provides vital services to mentally ill patients in crisis. The issue underscores the failure of the DMH and the state to provie adequate care for the mentally ill and the need for increase funding and provision of services for this vulnerable population in our state.
Nurses union bashes Brockton mental health facility
Group cites unsafe conditions at Brockton mental health center
By Alex Bloom
Posted Jan 06, 2013 @ 06:00 AM
Nurses union leaders will sit down with the state mental health commissioner this week to talk about what they say are unsafe conditions and mismanagement at the Brockton Multi-Service Center.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association says that the issues at the state-run mental health facility on Quincy Street go beyond understaffing, and that nurses and other workers there feel unsafe.
In a Dec. 31 letter to state Mental Health Commissioner Marcia Fowler, a lawyer for the nurses union, Roland Goff, wrote about one nurse who worked a 171/2-hour shift and about the lack of security on nights and weekends at the facility.
Anna Chinappi, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Mental Health, said the Brockton facility and its sister facility in Norton are staffed according to standards set by the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership.
“We believe these standards provide the appropriate level of clinical care,” Chinappi said in the statement. “(Fowler) looks forward to meeting with representatives of the Massachusetts Nurses Association … hearing their concerns and working in partnership with them.”
The Brockton Multi-Service Center’s emergency services unit can treat up to six patients at a time and has nurses on duty 24 hours a day in three, 8-hour shifts. Patients typically stay three or four days and see an onsite psychiatrist.
Among the issues raised by the nurses union at both Brockton and Norton facilities:
The union has filed more than a dozen complaints about unsafe working conditions, which are filed when nurses believe care is being compromised because there aren’t enough staff members.
A nurse injured her back caring for a patient who could not stand on his own, a sign he should have been transferred to one of the state’s mental health hospitals. Her absence led to the closing of Brockton’s crisis center between Dec. 22-25.
According to Goff’s letter, one nurse was forced to work 171/2 consecutive hours.
“Often there is only one registered nurse on the unit at each location, which is unsafe and inappropriate for the care of the clients who are receiving services at the unit,” Goff wrote.
The crisis center at the Quincy Street office lacks security 24 hours a day, meaning patients can walk into the facility at any time, union officials said.
Mental health worker Amanda Chamberlain, 27, of Pawtucket, R.I., splits time between the Brockton and Norton facilities. She shared some of the details of the incidents at the two sites and said she is being bumped from her position as the state winds down operations at Taunton State Hospital.
She said the facility gives much-needed emergency care to mental health patients who are better treated there than at hospital emergency rooms or jails.
“Especially with everything that just happened in Connecticut, you would think they would be beefing up the mental health staffing,” Chamberlain said.
The center, which has been in Brockton for more than 30 years, also offers outpatient services and community-based flexible support services. The center takes in patients who have all forms of mental illness, including suicidal patients and those experiencing hallucinations.
David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the nurses union, said the state needs to be investing in the centers and adding staff.
“This is how you stop someone from ending up in an emergency department or ending up in jail or not being seen and going out and hurting themselves or hurting someone else,” he said.