Sen. Webber questions MDHHS leaders over concerns for youth psychiatric patients in state’s care

Sen. Webber questions MDHHS leaders over concerns for youth psychiatric patients in state’s care

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Michael Webber on Tuesday questioned three Michigan Department of Health and Human Services deputy directors over ongoing concerns for patient care at the state’s only psychiatric hospital for minors as part of a Senate subcommittee meeting focused on department appropriations.

“The concerning testimony that we heard today underscores the need for future public conversations with MDHHS in order to protect and care for the children during a serious time of need,” said Webber, R-Rochester Hills. “I hope this is the first of many public conversations with the department to provide parents with accountability. I will continue to advocate on behalf of these kids and their parents in Lansing.”

Webber renewed his call for legislative hearings to investigate minor psychiatric patient care under MDHHS after it was reported that a mother filed a $100 million lawsuit over the beating of her 10-year-old child while he was a resident at Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital. Attorneys said they have video evidence of five staff members encouraging a 15-year-old resident while she harmed a younger patient.

“I find it very troubling to learn that one of the employees involved in this horrific incident has only been placed on temporary leave and will in all likelihood return to the hospital,” Webber said. “Additionally, the hospital director claimed all employees who were involved in the active shooter drill at Hawthorn are no longer with the department, yet one individual’s name can still be found in the state employee database. I also found his claim that obese children are merely getting healthier dismissive and out of touch with parents’ genuine concerns about nutrition and food service. Parents know their kids better than the state.”

Webber recently visited the Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital, where young patients are being temporarily housed during the reconstruction of the Hawthorn Center, earlier this month — just days after a $13 million legal settlement was announced as part of the fallout from a questionably executed unannounced active shooter drill that took place in late 2022.

“I am grateful to Sen. Santana for inviting me to participate in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on MDHHS and voice my concerns with agency officials,” Webber said. “These children deserve better, and their families deserve action and accountability. I hope more of my fellow lawmakers will join me in getting to the bottom of what is wrong inside this vital state agency.”

Webber first asked Senate committee chairs to open reviews into the Hawthorn Center in June of 2023 and then petitioned the Office of Auditor General (OAG) to open an investigation after hearing patient and family testimonies during a listening session he hosted in Rochester Hills.

The OAG will begin its investigation into how the Office of Recipients Rights (ORR) handles allegations at state-run psychiatric hospitals beginning in April.

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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