"We are reviewing the complaint and the facts of this case closely. While we cannot comment on specific individuals or cases, the use of seclusion and restraint at Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH) is a clinical decision and one we view as a measure of last resort to protect patients from each other, from themselves and to keep staff safe. These clinical decisions are based on an individual's specific needs, behaviors and medical conditions. The Department of Correction (DOC) has taken a number of steps in recent years to better train staff in de-escalation techniques to limit instances where seclusion and restraint are necessary. Additionally, DOC and BSH work closely with the Department of Mental Health to transition BSH patients, when appropriate, to Department of Mental Health hospitals for care."
MHM Services Inc., the national health care provider named in the suit, has not responded to a request for comment. The superintendent of Bridgewater State Hospital could not be reached for comment.
Dr. Igor Galynker, director of The Family Center for Bipolar Disorder at Mount Sinai Beth Israel and professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, said most patients with schizophrenia are treated effectively with medications.
"In most people, they are very good at controlling the positive symptoms, which are hallucinations and delusions and disorganization, all leading at times to violent behavior," he said.
"Seclusion is less restrictive than restraints," said Galynker, who has never treated Peter Minich. "It's really a big deal to put someone in restraints and it's very tightly regulated. You need a doctor's order, time limit, and constant monitoring."
Patients must be assessed every 15 minutes, he said, and the maximum time typically allowed in seclusion at any one time is four hours for an adult an two hours for an adolescent.
"First of all, it's damaging physically," he said of seclusion. "They can injure themselves by throwing themselves against a wall when in seclusion or by cutting the circulation in an arm by thrashing about so much when they are in restraints.
"Psychologically, it can be incredibly damaging to have lack of stimulation and sensory deprivation," Galynker added. "It causes hallucinations, even in people who are healthy."
As a child, Peter Minich was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, but he was "really artistic and athletic," his mother said. "He played soccer and hockey and was OK for a good part of his life."
But he began to show signs of mental illness around 14 or 15, his mother. said "I thought maybe, like other teenage boys, he was having a hard time because of the ADD and he was frustrated," she said.
For a time, he attended a special school. But by high school, "Things got worse and he started hearing voices," his mother said.
He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized at in 2003 Harvard University-affiliated McLean Hospital. For several years, he was in and out of treatment there, until private insurance "ran out," Minich said.
In 2011, he was transferred to Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain, a facility run by the Massachusetts Department of Correction and Department of Mental Health, providing residential psychiatric care. He began to engage in more aggressive behavior but was "generally lethargic," according to the lawsuit.
"Things started to go down quickly from there," she said. "He tried to kill himself. But he never really hit anybody or anything."
But between Nov. 6 and 26, 2012, Minich was accused of punching a staff member, throwing a chair at another, pushing a third person and then masturbating in front of a fourth, according to the lawsuit.
Sometimes around Dec. 7, 2012, Lemuel Shattuck Hospital staff members contacted law enforcement, requesting charges be brought against Peter Minich, even though they were "aware that Mr. Minich could not be held criminally responsible," the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit says that on or about Jan. 13, 2013, he was arrested and jailed, then placed at Bridgewater for evaluation.
Once transferred to Bridgewater, it argues, Minich's alleged crimes "could not possibly lead to incarceration even if he was convicted," his lawyer said..
Since entering Bridgewater, Minich said, her son has "regressed."
"He's on a litany of medications and supposedly had a second evaluation, but I am not sure about that," she said. "Even though I am his guardian, I don't get a lot of information."
"They have criminalized his illness. That's what they are doing," she said. "And it's unconscionable and he's not in a therapeutic environment. I know he is ill. I can live with that. But no one should be treated like an animal, locked in an isolation cage."