BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland health officials are adding more monitoring staff and re-assessing all patients at the state’s
forensic mental hospital while investigators probe two slayings at the hospital in a week.
Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein said Friday that officials have been taking steps to improve safety at Clifton T. Perkins
Hospital, but more must be done.
“Given this very unusual and very serious situation, there are going to be some immediate steps, some of which were set in motion earlier this week and some of which are taking effect now,” he said.
Staff found Rogelio Mondragon, 40, unconscious on the floor of his room Thursday evening and he was pronounced dead, police said.
As staff cleared patients from the floor to investigate, police said Andre Mayo, 46, approached security staff with information about the assault, and surveillance video showed him entering Mondragon’s room twice in a half hour when the victim was otherwise alone, police said.
Mondragon’s death was ruled a homicide by multiple blunt force injuries, including severe trauma to his larynx. Mayo was charged with murder.
Mayo had been at Perkins since 2008. Mondragon, who was charged with two other men in the rape of an 11-year-old girl in Montgomery County, was committed there last year after being found incompetent to stand trial.
Thursday’s death was the second slaying at the hospital in a week and the third in 13 months. Officials have said there had not been a slaying at the hospital before the slaying in a medium-security wing of the hospital last year.
Now, clinical staff are re-assessing every patient to see how each is coping with the extraordinary situation and to check their level of care, Mental Hygiene Administration Director Dr. Gayle Jordan-Randolph said Friday. The hospital is also adding an additional monitoring staffer on each shift.
Representatives from the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors are already evaluating the conditions at the hospital after last week’s slaying.
Vitali Davydov, 24, was charged with killing his roommate, 22-year-old David Rico-Noyola last week. Davydov was committed after he was found not criminally responsible for the 2006 slaying of a psychiatrist. Rico-Noyola was charged with murder in his mother’s 2008 death, but later deemed incompetent to stand trial.
Perkins, which was founded in 1959, is Maryland’s only maximum-security psychiatric hospital. Its two-story brick building is in Jessup, 15 miles south of Baltimore. The hospital’s capacity is 248 patients and is staffed by 450 people.
There were 239 patients there on Friday.
The hospital is home to patients who need pretrial psychiatric evaluation, have been found not guilty by reason of insanity or who become mentally ill while in prison.
Jordan-Randolph will oversee a review of the hospital’s safety policies, including patient selection and management of patients with the potential for violence. But it will take time to tell whether any factors, such as the number of patients with violent histories, have shifted recently, she said.
Laura Cain, managing attorney for the Adult Mental Health Unit at the Maryland Disability Law Center, said her advocacy group was concerned that investigations by police and the state’s office of health care quality after last year’s slaying death did not examine larger, cultural issues at the facility.
“We were concerned because the inquiries seemed to begin and end with what staff at that particular moment in time did or did not do and really failed to look at any of the larger issues,” Cain said.
Three staffers on duty the night of the 2010 slaying retired last year and the hospital’s chief executive stepped down earlier this year. In that case, El Soundani El-Wahhabi, also known as Saladin Taylor, was charged in the death of fellow patient Susan Sachs, 45. Both El-Wahhabi and Sachs had been committed to Perkins after separate murder trials.
Though El-Wahhabi was a known violent sexual offender, his bedroom was on the same hallway as the female victim, Cain said.
The General Assembly passed legislation this year aiming to address some of the problems raised, she said. The bill took effect Oct. 1, but something needs to be done to assure the patients that they are safe.
“The more unsafe people feel, the more likely bad things are going to happen,” Cain said. “I’m stunned that it happened again, to tell you the truth.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)