Lawsuit Seeks Video From Wyoming State Hospital To Help Investigate Abuse And Neglect Claims

     A lawsuit alleges two Wyoming State Hospital patients died in the past 4 months because staff at the mental health institution failed to follow procedures in neglect, food choking, and medication error incidents. 

     Cheyenne-based Protection & Advocacy System Inc, a private, nonprofit corporation charged by law with investigating abuse and neglect of people with mental and developmental disabilities, filed the lawsuit in federal District Court in Cheyenne. 

     The lawsuit against the Wyoming Department of Health and state hospital directors seeks to force the release of video recordings made inside the facility.

     The State Health Department stopped releasing video recordings last month with Hospital Director Paul Mullenax saying they were reviewing whether under Medicaid and Medicare regulations it could record patients without their knowledge.

     The lawsuit argues that without access to video, Protection & Advocacy System would have to rely on “inconsistent” and “vague” incident reports, “inaccurate and misleading” observation logs, and inaccurate witness statements when investigating patient treatment.

      The lawsuit describes one patient choking to death on large pieces of meat and bread despite orders for soft-foods only and tells of another patient scheduled for safety checks every 15 minutes being found dead and cold in their room.

      Other recent video-documented incidents included a patient with slurred speech and weakness soon after a Friday head injury but not taken to an ER until Monday; a patient who nearly choked to death on food; and a patient who took another’s medication.

     The suit follows recent patient suicides, a rape by a staffer, and an incapacitated woman’s abandonment in a dayroom without food, water or bathroom use for over 24 hours.

Wyoming Department of Health Director Kim Deti declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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