Ancora Psychiatric Hospital reported the most violence among the state’s four psychiatric hospitals during a nine-month period in 2015, according to a new report published by the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Patients and staff were assaulted badly enough to require medical attention 77 times between January and September last year. Three patients and two employees received significant injuries that needed hospital treatment. Patients injured staff 52 times; patients injured other patients 25 times.
There were two unexpected deaths at Ancora during the first six months of 2015, both of natural causes. One was due to pulmonary emboli, a sudden blockage in a lung artery; the other was due to heart disease.
Christopher Morrison, appointed in July as CEO of Ancora after it repeatedly failed federal inspections, said the hospital is trying out pilot projects to reduce violence and restraint use. The number of violent assaults has been dropping at the hospital since it undertook efforts to address the problem.
“The goal is to try to get it safe for everyone,” Morrison told the Courier-Post.
Trenton State Hospital reported 60 incidents during the same period; Ann Klein Forensic Center reported 55; and Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital — the largest of the four — reported 34 violent assaults.
The information was posted on the state Department of Human Services’ website Friday, in response to an Open Public Records Act request submitted by the Courier-Post Aug. 31. The quarterly incident report is mandated by state law.
For the first time, the report does not include less serious assaults that did not result in injuries, or that resulted in minor injuries that only required first aid. In 2014, the state reported 1,366 total assaults at Ancora. It’s not clear if assaults at the hospital are declining overall.
When the department first began publishing the information in 2008, it heralded its “data dashboard” as an effort to increase accountability and transparency.
Ellen Lovejoy, a department spokeswoman, said Tuesday that publishing less information allows the state to “better comply with the statutory requirements” in a timely fashion. Data for 2014 was not published until August 2015.
“I don’t think it’s less forthcoming,” Lovejoy said. “I don’t know how helpful it is that every little push and shove is listed there. But we are adhering to the statutory requirements. … I don’t know, at that time, that we realized how much manpower it takes to do all those things.”
The division did not consult patient advocacy groups about the change, said Phil Lubitz, associate director of National Alliance on Mental Illness New Jersey and chairman of the state’s Behavioral Health Planning Council.
“I’m disappointed the division has changed their reporting criteria,” Lubitz said. “I think they could have been more transparent in the release of the data, and the reason they were changing the criteria. The statute has existed for some time. Why now?”
Kim Mulford: (856) 486-2448; firstname.lastname@example.org