Health Department Investigates Patient Death

DATE: November 1, 2004

CONTACT: Communication Office

WATERBURY - The Department of Health today reported that an individual committed suicide yesterday while on community leave from the Vermont State Hospital.

“We are all deeply saddened by this tragic event,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, Vermont commissioner of health.

Because of patient confidentiality laws, the department cannot provide specific information about an individual or an individual’s medical condition or care.

An important part of treatment for any patient at the state hospital is developing the ability to transition back into his or her home community. This transition is a planned part of a patient’s treatment. It is written into the patient’s treatment plan and is developed with input from the hospital staff, the provider in the community and the individual’s family or guardian. A community leave is typically a day pass that allows the individual to leave the hospital grounds.

“This death did not occur at the hospital; however, the individual was under our care and we take this event very seriously,” Jarris said. “As any hospital would do in a situation like this, we have begun an in-depth peer review and evaluation process.”

In addition, an independent review will be conducted by an outside psychiatric expert.

Deputy Commissioner of Health for Mental Health Dr. Susan Wehry, Vermont State Hospital Executive Director Terry Rowe and Medical Director Dr. Tom Simpatico have initiated an immediate review of the patient’s treatment plan and all clinical decision making related to the patient’s care. They have also notified state and federal regulatory agencies about the event.

“Following the independent review, the department will share recommendations related to hospital policies and procedures with the Vermont State Hospital Governing Body and other groups including the Mental Health Oversight Committee, the Adult State Program Standing Committee and the Futures Advisory Group,” said Wehry.