LANSING, Mich. — Days after a $13 million legal settlement was announced as part of the fallout from a questionably executed unannounced active shooter drill at the only state-run psychiatric hospital for minors, Sen. Michael Webber visited the Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital, where young patients being temporarily housed during reconstruction of the Hawthorn Center.
“The settlement represents an acknowledgment by the governor’s health and human services department that patients and employees were deeply wronged by the ineffective and poor management of the Hawthorn Center,” said Webber, R-Rochester Hills.
“While I hope this settlement brings some measure of relief to those who’ve been harmed, it is also further evidence that wider systemic problems are plaguing our state-run psychiatric hospitals. Michigan’s lawmakers have a duty to these vulnerable patients and their parents to investigate these serious issues and to ensure accountability and real change occur within the state agencies responsible for these facilities.”
Webber toured Walter Reuther hospital on Monday along with state Sen. Santana, D-Detroit, who serves as chair of the Senate’s Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee and majority vice chair of the Senate Committee on Health Policy. In December, Webber and Santana met with families who voiced concerns about care and lack of weekend visitation opportunities after Hawthorn patients were transferred to Reuther.
“I am grateful to Sen. Santana for joining me for the Walter Reuther hospital visit and working alongside me in hearing the concerns and experiences of families and patients in the care of these state facilities,” said Webber, who serves as minority vice chair of the Senate Committee on Health Policy. “Advocating for the proper care of young people in the state’s care shouldn’t be a partisan issue — it’s our shared responsibility.”
“The Legislature must work to assure state resources are being spent on helping residents who need MDHHS services instead of legal fees and court settlements. But most importantly, families should not have to worry about the basic well-being of their loved ones while in the state’s care.”
Webber first called on Senate committee chairs to open reviews into the Hawthorn Center in June, however, no hearings have taken place. In January, the Office of Auditor General announced it would investigate the Office of Recipients Rights (ORR) for how it handles allegations at state-run psychiatric hospitals as part of its 2024 audit cycle following Webber’s formal request of the department in July after hearing patient and family testimonies during a Protect MI Kids listening session that he hosted with other lawmakers in his district.
“Disability Rights Michigan appreciates Senator Webber’s focus on improving patient care at state-run psychiatric hospitals,” said Simon Zagata, who serves as director of Community and Institutional Rights Advocacy for Disability Rights Michigan. “As always, we advocate for improved access to community-based mental health services as the main solution, so that patients spend as little time in facilities as possible.”
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 drmich.org.