Sen. Webber moves to increase security funding, transparency for MDHHS psychiatric hospitals

Sen. Webber moves to increase security funding, transparency for MDHHS psychiatric hospitals

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Michael Webber on Tuesday offered amendments to increase security funding and provide for more legislative oversight of Michigan’s psychiatric hospitals as part of the ongoing legislative process to finalize the state’s budget for the 2025 fiscal year.

“A growing pattern of concerning events surrounding in-patient psychiatric care for minors has recently led to two major lawsuits against the state,” said Webber, R-Rochester Hills. “It has become clear that more oversight and transparency are urgently needed regarding staffing at these facilities. Additionally, department leadership has made it clear that dedicated funding is necessary to enhance security measures. The Legislature has a duty to ensure that people who rely on the state’s care in these facilities are protected from harm.”

Webber has previously pushed for legislative hearings and hosted a listening session with former patients and concerned parents about concerns over care and safety at the state’s only psychiatric hospital for minors. The state Office of the Auditor General (OAG) has begun its independent investigation into how the Office of Recipients Rights handles allegations at state-run psychiatric hospitals, following a request intimated by the senator.

He has also questioned Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) leadership over a list of issues, including corrective actions taken surrounding the horrific unannounced shooter drill that took place at Hawthorn in December 2022, the alleged beating of a 10-year-old patient outlined in a recently filed $100 million lawsuit, security concerns over a history of patient escapes, patient weight loss trends along with nutritional and dietary information, and the rushed transition of minor patients from the former Hawthorn Center to Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital, compromising outdoor recreational, visitation and educational opportunities.

Webber’s first amendment would have mandated discipline reporting requirements to the Legislature concerning MDHHS employees at state psychiatric hospitals.

“Over and over again, we hit roadblocks with the department that oversees these facilities or received minimal feedback,” Webber said. “It was only recently confirmed that one employee involved in the traumatic active shooter drill at Hawthorn Center is still employed by the state — this incident prompted a criminal investigation and cost taxpayers $13 million in a lawsuit settlement.

“Additionally, MDHHS recently confirmed that only two of the employees involved in the alleged incident that prompted a $100 million lawsuit over patient abuse are no longer employed by the state — and only one of them was terminated. These findings illustrate a serious need for more transparency into a public agency that has grown accustomed to policing itself.”

Webber’s second amendment would have increased funding for needed security and transparency upgrades — including escape prevention — at state-run psychiatric hospitals.

“MDHHS leadership recently indicated several important safety enhancements and areas for improvement when questioned concerning patterns of escapes from the former Hawthorn facility and current areas where minors are housed at Walter Reuther,” Webber said. “This funding is necessary to provide important protection for vulnerable young people in the state’s care. Families shouldn’t have to worry about the safety of their loved ones at these facilities.”

Both amendments failed to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

“It remains frustrating that the majority party across the aisle continues to turn a blind eye and ignore the severe red flags surrounding the psychiatric care for minors in our state,” Webber said. “The Legislature should ensure state agencies are spending taxpayer dollars on the people they are charged to serve rather than on lawsuits because of poor management. Michigan residents should be able to trust young people in the state’s care will be protected from unnecessary and preventable harm.

“We look forward to the auditor’s independent report shedding light on several important issues. A pressing need remains to address significant concerns within this troubled department.”

Residents who would like to share their experiences or concerns over care received at state-run psychiatric hospitals may contact Disability Rights Michigan, the federally mandated protection and advocacy system for Michigan, toll-free at 1-800-288-5923 or visit



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