On August 1, the State Human Rights Committee (SHRC) affirmed a ruling that Western State Hospital in Staunton violated the civil rights of a Spanish-speaking mentally ill patient by keeping him in seclusion for the last 15 years. Fifty-seven-year-old Cesar Augusto Chumil’s treatment plans and medication-related information were always delivered in English, which he barely speaks.
“It’s one of the most outrageous things I’ve ever seen,” says Alex Gulotta of Charlottesville’s Legal Aid Justice Center, which sued to have Chumil’s treatment altered. As a result, the hospital’s human rights committee issued a number of recommendations in June, including that he be treated by a Spanish-speaking psychiatrist, and that Spanish-speaking staff be present on all shifts at the hospital. His seclusion was also to be severely limited.
The hospital appealed the ruling to SHRC, which, rather than overruling, instead imposed a number of additional restrictions on the hospital, specifying that seclusion only be used in emergencies and that the hospital keep written daily reports on Chumil’s activities with details of how much time he spends outside his containment suite, whether restraints or time-outs are used, and how long his door is locked.
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