Source: NJ Spotlight Health
Allegations of overcrowding and unsafe conditions are so serious at the state-run Greystone Psychiatric facility that New Jersey should reopen a Hunterdon County psychiatric hospital that closed five years ago to help relieve the situation, according to Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex), a long time mental health advocate.
Codey, who has gone undercover several times to investigate concerns about psychiatric care and other social services, called on Gov. Chris Christie Monday to reopen the former Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital to help reduce population pressure at Greystone, the largest remaining state facility for patients with severe mental illness. If there is no response, Codey said he would push for the reopening under a new governor, after Christie, a two-term Republican, leaves office in January.
According to state data, there were two dozen violent patient incidents — half involving staff, the other half involving other patients — and one sudden, unexpected death at Greystone during the first quarter of 2017, double or more the number of incidents reported at any of the other three state psychiatric hospitals. Several of the attacks at Greystone, which is located in Parsippany, involved the same two patients, officials said.
And reports from March showed that Greystone had 560 residential patients, the highest population since it reopened in 2008 in a new facility that replaced a historic 132-year-old facility under the same name. The old building was dogged by extensive media coverage, legislative investigations, and repeated efforts at reform. The census has trended upward in recent years at the new Greystone complex, which was built to house 450 people in the main building with another 60 living in cottages.
(Hagedorn, in Glenn Gardner, held around 300 patients at its peak; the facility now houses a transitional program for homeless veterans, run by the state’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.)
These conditions have raised concerns for members of Greystone’s board of trustees, some mental health advocates and officials at the state Office of the Public Defender, who described the conditions as “prison-like” with the most violent patients “running things” in a story published Wednesday by NJ.com. They blamed a lack of leadership and need for more and better-trained staff, according to the article.
The governor’s office declined to respond to a request for public comment and a spokesperson for the state Department of Human Services, which oversees the psychiatric hospitals, said they did not comment on legislative proposals. All together, the four facilities now hold nearly 1,600 — down from more than ten thousand in decades past — and the vast majority of patients now receive care in local settings.