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  • 3/25/1882 Insanity of a Lawyer
    Mr. W.F. Engley, so long known to residents of Cambridge as an attorney-at-law, had an epileptic fit at his office on State street, Boston, last Saturday, and was moved to the Hospital. Friday he was sent to the State Lunatic Asylum at Danvers, and it is feared that he is incurably insane.
  • 12/3/1883 Freeman the Child Butcher
    Charles F. Freeman, the religious enthusiast who killed his little daughter Edith, in May, 1879 trial ended Wednesday in his being found not guilty because of insanity, started early Thursday to the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers. He left the jail at Barnstable in company with his wife of the Old Colony Railroad. He was neatly dressed and had on lavender kids and sported a natty cane. He and his wife sat in the same seat in the car and chatted pleasantly together during the trip. She will accompany him to Danvers, and after bidding him goodbye, will return to Lynn, where she now lives and is engaged in dress making.
  • 8/9/1902 Cook taken to Insane Hospital
    A young woman cook at the smallpox detention hospital was taken violently insane about three weeks ago and commitment papers were issued for her being taken to the Danvers Insane Hospital. Before she would be allowed there, however, she had to be quarantined two weeks to prevent a possible contagion being carried to the other inmates of the Danvers Asylum. Later she was taken there by Constable Warren Ivers.
  • 4/8/1918 Postmaster Shoots Danvers Inmate
    Henry Grush an inmate of the State Insane Hospital at Danvers was shot and killed by Charles F. Skillings, postmaster at the Hathorne Station today. The tragedy took place outside the Post Office Buildings. Skillings said Grush was attempting to gain entrance. The Post Office, which is in a grocery store conducted by Skillings has been robbed several times within six months. Grush was committed to the insane hospital October 15, 1910 and was deemed harmless. He did farm work and slept in a building known as “Grove Hall” which has no bars on the windows. It had been his practice for a long time to arise at 4am to perform work in the cow barn and frequently he would take walks to the Post Office and other places nearby.
  • 4/17/1919 Newburyport Contractor Flees Danvers Asylum
    City Marshall Mclean learned this afternoon that Antonio J. Schezpanek, the Polish contractor convicted of murdering Annie Spiewok and Bill Wladyslaw in December, 1917 had escaped from the Danvers State Insane Asylum. He at once sent out a general alarm to his officers to maintain a strict watch, for it is suspected the may make his way to the city. Schezpanek Belived to Have Picked A Lock Hospital officials believe he secured his liberty by picking a lock. He was convicted of killing a woman and child while robbing a trunk containing money in which the woman’s husband kept his savings.
  • 12/6/1920 Accuse Woman As Law Fugitive
    Mrs. Mildred Trembley, aged 29, who was arrested yesterday by Detectives King and Walsh while attempting, police say to cash a $200 check at a downtown bank under the name Dorothy Forbes escaped from the State Hospital for Insane at Danvers, Mass, on December 10th according to information received by police Friday night from the Danvers institution. Mrs. Trembley is at the House of Detention charged with being a fugitive from justice.
  • 12/14/1922 Mrs. Brady Insane Murder Case Finding
    Committed to Hospital at Danvers for Life A verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity was found yesterday in the case of Mrs. Mary G. Brady of Lowell who on September 29, shot and killed her husband Frederick W. Brady, during an argument over money matters in the corridor of the Lowell City Hall. Judge Franklin T. Hammons committed her to the Danvers State Hospital for life. Mrs. Brady who had been judged insane by alienist Dr. Frederick B. Cady of the Harvard Medical School betrayed no sign of emotion. Mrs. Brady is 28 years old. She came here from Ireland 14 years ago and has two children ages 9 and 7 who were present during the quick trial.
  • 3/25/1924 Man Jumps to Death as Wife Arrives
    In the presence of his wife and brother and scores of other persons, Mike De Luce, an inmate of Danvers State Hospital, leaped 80 feet to his death today. He had sat for six hours on the edge of a roof. Attendants caught him in a life net but he burst through the net to the ground. De Luce for some time had been asking the hospital authorities to give him outdoor work so that he could get exercise. They finally assented and this morning put him on the cleaning squad which is picking up trash and waste on the grounds. About 10am he ran away from the squad evaded the guards and reached the fire escape. He ran up this up to the roof. From there he made his way to the edge before the guards could reach him and was perched 80 feet above ground. The authorities obtained ladders and life nets and a ladder was placed against the building. De Luce threatened to jump. Attendants took down the ladder and pleaded with the man to come down. Finally they withdrew, hoping that his excitement would leave him. They sent for his wife and brother. For six hours De Luce sat on the edge of the roof. Finally just after his brother and wife arrived, De Luce stood up, he lit a cigarette, took a few puffs then he jumped. The attendants with the life net were successful in catching him but he was going too fast. He died a half hour later.
  • 2/11/1926 Danvers Hospital to Add 500 New Beds
    Five hundred new beds will be available for insane patients in the Danvers Hospital for the Insane this year, according to a statement issued yesterday by Governor Alvan T. Fuller, who visited the hospital Monday. The Governor is convinced, he said that the present State building program for insane hospital for the coming year will adequately provide for the situation. The Governor declined to comment upon statements which have been made regarding overcrowding, saying that he found no more crowding at the institution than he had anticipated and nothing greatly objectionable. Next year as a result of the provision made in the in last year’s appropriation bill, there are to be 648 additional beds.
  • 7/11/1930 Danvers Attendants Given Year in Jail
    Found Guilty of Assault on Hospital Inmate Chase Webster and Alexander Chasnovlits, attendants at the Danvers State Hospital, were sentenced to one year In the House or Correction this morning by Judge George B. Sears when found guilty in District court of assault on a 53-year­old Insane patient. The alleged assault occurred on July 2 while the two attendants were attempting to put the patient to bed. The patient received two broken ribs and other Injuries which had to be treated by a physician. He is believed to be recovering from the beating. It is claimed that Chasnovlits admitted to Dr. C. A Bonner, superintendent, that he had struck the patient and that Webster at first denied the assault, but later admitted It. Besides the police investigation, the office of District Attorney Clark also took action, and in court this morning District Attorney Edward F. Flynn conduction the prosecution. During the hearing, the two insane patients were placed on the stand. They testified as to what they had seen during the assault and of the screams of the patient from blows of the attendants.
  • 1/13/1931 Prisoner Recaptured After 13 Years Free
    Self-Confessed Murderer Escaped From Danvers. Peabody Man Committed as Insane: Taken on a Tip at Selkirk, NY. Dispatches received here today revealed that Daniel Mandzy, was arrested at Selkirk, NY, by New York State Troopers on an anonymous tip, was the man who escaped from Danvers State Hospital, April 29, 1918, having been committed to that insane hospital, while awaiting trial for murder of his wife in Peabody on August 28, 1916. The Peabody police, the district attorney’s office and the Danvers State Hospital had not been officially notified of the arrest up until late hour tonight. Had Bleached His Hair State Hospital officials were told by the Peabody police and district attorney’s office that jurisdiction in the case lies in their hands. The hospital officials are communicating with authorities in New York State to find out if Mandzy is being committed to an insane hospital there. If so, he will be transferred to the Danvers State Hospital, under a standing agreement between State hospitals. Manzy has already been arraigned before a justice in Selkirk on a charge of being a fugitive from justice and has been ordered held at Albany, NY, for the Massachusetts authorities. Mandzy had effectively disguised himself by bleaching his hair and eye-brows. According to his story to the New Troopers, he had wandered around the country after his escape and then had settled down around Albany six years ago. Mandzy, according to a confession he made after his arrest murdered his wife, Mrs. Josephine Mandzy, 25 in their home in Peabody on August 28, 1916, because of his suspicions that she was unfaithful with a “star boarder.” Escaped After Transfer After the murder, he ran out of his house flourishing a pistol at neighbors and escaped to Salem. The local police followed him and captured him at gun point. The first night in jail his hair turned completely grey from worry. It was while he was confined in the County jail in Salem awaiting trial that he became insane. He was transferred to the Danvers State Hospital where he was found to be melancholy and morose but he seized upon his first chance to escape and made a successful getaway. The New York troopers said he appeared sane to them. The mysterious “tip” which landed him into the hands of the police is believed to have come from a resident in the vicinity of Albany.
  • 2/8/1935 Danvers Hospital Inmate Killed In Elevator Mishap
    Nichols, 56 of Newton, a patient at the Danvers State Hospital, was instantly killed this afternoon when he suffered a fainting spell in an elevator and struck his head against the flooring in the Service Building. Nichols had practically recovered from his illness and was engaged in duties about the storage room. He boarded the elevator alone in the cellar and as it was rising he fainted his head striking the flooring of the first floor as the elevator continued upward. The elevator is the open type and other patients and employees saw the victim’s plight and brought him from the elevator. Hospital officials called Medical Examiner S. Chase Tucker, who said death was caused by a fractured skull and was accidental.
  • 11/30/1937 Insane Killer Captured In Near Danvers Escape
    Mitchell Gondek who was convicted of a double slaying and confined to the Danvers State Hospital for life, three years ago, nearly sawed his way to freedom from the state institution Saturday night. Gondek was recaptured on the hospital grounds after he had sawed his way through the iron grilling on the window of his solitary, second-story room and dropped 15 feet to the hospital lawn. Dr. Edward C. Yerbury, assistant superintendent of the hospital said Grondek persuaded a fellow inmate who has the privilege of exercising outdoors on the school grounds, to smuggle a saw blade into him. In June, 1934, Gondek shot and killed Paul and Alice Caouette. He shot them down in cold blood, while their baby cried on a crib upstairs. Arrested for the crime in November, he readily confessed, saying “I just wanted to use my gun.”
  • 1/29/1938 Buckley Finds Eight Murder Blames Former Heads of Insane Hospitals
    At least eight of the 293 patients of state insane hospitals who died violent deaths since 1928 were slain by other inmates, state investigators revealed last night. The name of the eighth victim of murderous assault was released by State Auditor Thomas H. Buckley, who investigated records at the Danvers State Hospital after receiving a tip that a patient had been choked to death there in December. Checking on statements on an anonymous letter he received, Buckley said he found that Edward M. Souther died at the state hospital on December 29, a week after he had been assaulted by another patient. Souther’s death brought the total of slayings at Danvers to three. Five others were announced earlier at Medfield State Hospital. State police and accountants from Buckley’s office are working together in an attempt to unravel the stories which surround the long list of violent deaths that the Department of Mental Diseases has classified in its annual reports. A grand total of 400 odd inmates have died from other than natural causes, it has been found.
  • 2/13/1941 Spectacular State Hospital Fire Causes $60,000 Loss"
    The most spectacular fire in Essex County in at least a generation early tonight destroyed a barn at the Danvers State Hospital. At least four of the hospital’s 150 head of cattle were burned. Damage was estimated at $60,000. Situated only a few hundred yards from the top of the hill, the huge wooden structure burned like a torch and could be seen as far away as Brighton. An estimated 10,000 persons were attracted to the scene. The main hospital buildings were never threatened but a three-story brick building used as a dormitory by “trusties” was set afire by flying sparks. The inmates quickly extinguished a fire on the second floor porch and until the barn fire was put out, watchers with small house lines were stationed on every floor and roof. Nobody was seriously injured in fighting the fire although Chief Joseph Kelly reported that members of the local Fire Department and those from Salem, Peabody and Marblehead received minor cuts and bruises. All hospital inmates were accounted for. Most Cattle Saved About 1000 quarts of milk furnished daily by the hospital farm was threatened. Employees, however led 145 head of cattle from the blazing building and were trucked to the Essex County Agricultural School and a nearby farm where they are being sheltered. Superintendent Dr. Clarence A. Bonner and assistant Dr. William C. Inman, were unable to learn the cause of the fire which they described as the worst since the hospital was built in 1878.
  • 11/16/1949 Mother Is Found “Insane” in Killing Her 4 Children
    Standing with her head bowed, a slim pallid 31-year-old Chelmsford unwed mother heard a Middlesex Superior Court jury acquit her by reason of insanity yesterday in the carbon monoxide killing of her four young children 20 months ago. Mrs. Evelyn C. Roche bit her lip in a battle to hold back her tears when Judge Vincent Broggna, immediately following the jury’s verdict ordered her “committed to the Danvers State Hospital for her natural life.” The verdict sentence followed a prosecution move believed unprecedented in history in capital cases in Middlesex County. Assisant District Attorney, Lyman C. Sprague in his summation actually argued in behalf of the defense when he said “ In all humility, knowing the grave duty imposed on me and the prosecution of this case, and in fairness to the citizens of Middlesex County, I ask you to return a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.” But he urged the jury that their verdict “not let her loose upon the community” The jury returned the verdict after 55 minutes of deliberation. The dramatic trial lasted only two days. Doctors Agree Four doctors all prosecution witnesses testified that Mrs. Roche was insane on March 20, 1948 when she placed her four young children in a rented automobile and let the engine until they were overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning. Sprague pointed out to the jury that this occurred just after the death of 70-year-old Peter Roche whom the prosecutor described as “a father and lover all rolled into one” to the defendant. It was as a result of the death of the elderly man, who befriended the defendant when as a young girl, she was out of her home, that Mrs. Roche was rendered “mentally shaken” After Roche died, Dr. Bardwell H. Flower, superintendent of the Worcester State Hospital, testified, Mrs. Roche fell victim to “fear and uncertainty as to the future.” State testimony brought out the fact that not only did they defendant attempt to die with her children but that she also tried to hang herself some months later while she was at Worcester State Hospital for observation.
  • 10/29/1950 Attendant Fined $15 in Assault on Mental Patient, 50"
    Charged with mistreatment of an insane patient at Danvers State Hospital, James C. Parsons, 22, of Danvers a hospital attendant, was found guilty and paid a fine of $15 imposed by Judge George B. Sears in District Court today. Attorney Edward A. Coffey defense counsel told the court that Parsons struck the 50-year old patient because the patient bit him. Parsons, who pleaded not guilty to the charge, testified the patient had been unmanageable. State Police had been called into the case after Dr. Francis X. Sullivan assistant superintendent, had discovered the patient suffered a bad bruise and severe swelling of the right side of the face. Parsons had been employed as an attendant at the hospital for the last 18 months.
  • 5/9/1952 Suspect in Killing of Danvers Inmate Sent to Bridgewater
    A patient who was suspected of killing another inmate Saturday at Danvers State Hospital was transferred to Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane today. Dr. Francis X. Sullivan, assistant superintendent of the Danvers institution said he still had not heard from the District Attorney’s office about possible court action. It was expected the transfer of the suspect would close the case. The murder victim was Charles W. Baker formerly of Lynn, who had been confined to Danvers for about a year. He allegedly was beaten to death with a piece of firewood while he was laying in his bed. There was no witnesses to the killing the suspect has maintained his innocence.
  • 9/17/1952 Danvers Worker Dies in Fall After Scuffle on Stairs
    A kitchen employee at Danvers State Hospital was killed in a head-long plunge down a flight of stairs at the hospital tonight while scuffing with a second employee. Joespeh E. Henrick 57, died shortly after 9pm as doctors prepared to perform an emergency operation on him in the hospital infirmary. Held for questioning by State Police was Joseph Licciardello who allegedly was scuffling with Henrick. Police were unable to explain events leading up to the scuffle in the employee’s section of main building shortly after 8pm. State Troopers John Moriarty and Peter Murphy of Topsfield said Licciardello was incoherent after the tragedy and could not be questioned at this time.
  • 5/26/1953 Danvers Patient Fatally Beaten Found on Floor of 90-Man Ward
    The fatal beating of a 70-year-old patient in a ward of the State Hospital Friday night was disclosed for the first time this afternoon by Peabody police. The patient was identified as Michael P. Coffey who had been confined in the mental hospital for 40 years. Coffey died about 9:30pm Friday shortly after attendants found him moaning on the floor of the ward. Some 90 other male patients were in the ward. Dr. Jack R. Ewait, State Commissioner of Public Health, said Coffey suffered a cut on the head and bruises about the face. He said investigators had found a stick which could have been the death weapon. Medical Examiner Ralph McCarthy of Peabody who examined the body turned aside questions by the saying any information about the death would have to come from the hospital. Officials Silent Dr. Francis X. Sullivan, assistant superintendent of the hospital said information would to come from the office of the District Attorney Hugh A. Gregg. Gregg said he himself had been informed of the death. However, State Police Lt Detective Raymond L. Foley working out of his office was investigating the case. The two attendants in the ward were busy with their duties at the time and did not witness the assault, Foley said. The State Police barracks in Topsfield, only a mile from the hospital was not informed of the death. Neither were the Danvers police.
  • 9/29/1955 Two Somerville Youths Indicted in Slaying of Hospital Aide
    The Rockingham, NH County Grand Jury returned murder indictments against two Somerville, MA youths charged with slaying a 56-year-old Danvers State Hospital employee on June 23rd. Two indictments were returned to Justice John H. Leahy on Robert F. Curtis. Curtis was charged with first degree murder and robbery in the slaying of Lesley N. Jackman, superintendent of laundry at the Danvers hospital. Four indictments were returned on Curtis’ 16-year old companion, Robert F. Siteman as being a principle in the murder, while the other three charge him as being an accessory. A few days after the murder, the youths were picked up in Myrtle Beach SC., operating Jackman’s car.
  • 10/29/1960 Girl Accused of Strangling Hospitalized
    A 21-year-old Back Bay college student with a history of mental illness was committed to Danvers State Hospital Wednesday after she pleaded innocent to the strangulation of an 83-year-old woman. Judge William Landergan continued the case of Nancy Joan Lovering until December 3rd. She is accused of strangling Mrs. Mabel S. St. Clair with a nylon stocking. Neighbors told police they heard screams about 3pm and upon investigating found the girl standing in the hall-way. When police arrived the girl told them she had swallowed 100 aspirin tablets. Residents of the apartment building said Miss Lovering had friends in the area and knew the victim but had not been seen in the house for several months. Police said Miss Lovering suffered several nervous breakdowns and was a student in college. Homicide detectives said there was apparent connection between Mrs. St. Clair’s death and the 11 unsolved strangling’s in Greater Boston.
  • 11/6/1960 Danvers Escapee Caught, Two Still at Large"
    One of three mental patients who escaped from Danvers State Hospital last-night was picked up on a Salem street at noon today, Several hours later slate police located a stolen car believed used by the other two escapees. Camille LaBrecque, 27, of Salem, who was captured by police, said he walked the eight miles from Danvers to his mother's home and slept the night in her cellar. He ate breakfast with his mother and then, according to police, told her he was going out to "walk around until they pick me up." His mother notified police as soon as he left the house. Still missing are Frank Woodsum, 20, of Haverhill, awaiting trial on a charge of assault with intent to murder an 8-year-old girl, and Richard LaPage, 19, or Danvers, who has a long record of arrests, the latest of stealing a car owned by a priest. A car stolen from the stale hospital grounds last night was located by troopers from the Andover barracks on Liberty Street in Middleton, late this afternoon. Another car, stolen in Middleton last night, was recovered earlier in North Reading. Police advisories describe the missing men as "extremely dangerous.''
  • 4/9/1964 Millionaire Arraigned in Strangling of Maid
    Millionaire aristocracy, Tuesday was the recluse Louis Agassiz Shaw, charged with strangling his housekeeper. Shaw was admitted to Danvers State Hospital for 35 days observation. His case was continued until May 14th. “Cut it out, cut it out” he screamed as Clerk Leo Tracy began reading a charge that he had murdered Delia Holland 64. Shaw had to be escorted forcibly from the hearing and during the scuffle, he dropped a Bible and two other books he had been carrying.
  • 6/7/1970 Girls Death Linked to Meal At State School
    A 21-year-old Georgetown girl died Tuesday apparently from effects of a meal at the Hathorne State School for the Retarded, it was learned yesterday. There were reports that 129 persons from the school and Danvers State Hospital became ill after a meal but this could not be confirmed immediately. Dr. Herman Grush, medical examiner, said the girl died Tuesday at Beverly Hospital where she had been taken following the Monday evening meal at the school. “We won’t have a definite finding on the cause of death for several days” he said, “but it’s expected the girl died from effects of the meal.” Dr. Grush said the final determination awaits results of the culture samples from the girl. He said samples were also taken from several other students at the school.
  • 4/13/1977 Department of Mental Health Notice to Contractors
    Sealed proposals for cleaning, repairing and painting the elevated water storage tank at Danvers State Hospital, Danvers, Massachusetts, will be received at the Stewards Office of the Danvers State Hospital, until Monday, May 9, 1977, at 10:00 o’clock a.m. and then at said office publicly opened and read. Bids must be accompanied by a bid deposit in the form of a bid bond, or cash or certified check payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the name of which contract for the work is to be executed in the amount of $500,00. By: Nasir A. Khan, M.D. Superintendent
  • 2/27/1985 Suit Filed Over Ill Mental Patients
    Suit Filed Over Ill Mental Patients: Jean Dietz, Boston Globe February 27, 1985 ​ A class action suit, alleging that more than 200 patients in state mental health facilities with serious medical problems are receiving inadequate care, will be filed against state officials in US District Court in Boston today. Naming eight plaintiffs, whose illnesses range from epilepsy to congestive heart failure, as victims of grave medical and nursing care problems in various facilities, the suit seeks money damages for all such patients and court judgment that the facilities violate state and federal constitutional rights. The suit is brought on behalf of the patients by Palmer and Dodge, a Boston law firm, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law of the Boston Bar Assn. The action was taken following a year of effort to negotiate with human services officials to correct conditions surrounding the care of patients, Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the legal group, said yesterday. Patients cited in the case are confined at Lindemann Mental Health Center, Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center, Metropolitan State Hospital and Danvers State Hospital. They include a 55-year-old Spanish-speaking woman who has diabetes, arthritis and chronic schizophrenia, a 33-year-old woman who has chronic bleeding from a peptic ulcer, asthma, chronic renal failure, hypertension and a borderline personality disorder, a 52-year-old man with hepatitis, nephritis and organic brain damage and a 56-year-old man with temporal lobe epilepsy and a chronic urinary tract infection who fell while being bathed and fractured his hip. "Our information shows that physically ill mental patients are constantly neglected due to the lack of minimally adequate medical care on state hospital and mental health center units," said Darcy DuMont, an attorney at the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, one of the groups that investigated medical care for mental patients. ​ The group found that "with so few staff, limited staff training, totally inconsistent medical record-keeping and faulty or nonexistent medical equipment, there is no way anything approaching adequate medical care can be provided," Dumont said. A suit by the US Justice Department against Worcester State Hospital, charging the state with depriving 435 patients at the hospital of their constitutional rights to proper and safe care and medical treatment, was filed in the same court last week. The suit also follows disclosure of three deaths at Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center of patients whose medical complications allegedly went undetected. In a related development, legislation has been filed by Sen. Jack Backman (D-Brookline) to provide needed medical services or appropriate placements for physically ill state mental patients. Backman said yesterday that his investigators at the Solomon Carter Fuller Center found that "there were no doctors or nurses on the ward for the eight- hour period in which each of the three Fuller patients died." Named as defendants in the new suit are Mental Health Comr. James Callahan, Dr. Mona Bennett, deputy commissioner; Public Health Comr. Bailus Walker, Human Services Secretary Philip W. Johnston and Gov. Michael S. Dukakis.
  • 12/13/1987 Report Expected in Case of Missing Mental Patient Found Dead
    An investigative report by the Essex County district attorney’s office is expected this week on the circumstances surrounding the death of a 61-year-old Danvers State Hospital patient who was found dead last week on the grounds of the facility. The body of Anne Houghton formerly of Lawrence, was discovered outside one of the institutions buildings at 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday. The discovery reportedly came 17 hours after Houghton wandered away from the hospital and was exposed to rain and freezing temperatures. District Attorney Kevin Burke has ordered State Police in his office to conduct an investigation into her death. “I really don’t have much of a comment” Burke said yesterday. “It appears to have been clearly accidental” Temperatures hovered around 40 degrees Tuesday and there was light rain after dark. By 2:30am Wednesday, temperatures were near freezing. Initial reports from the state Department of Mental Health indicated the that body was found in an adjacent building, but Danvers police said Mrs. Houghton was found on the grounds just outside as adjacent building stairwell.
  • 3/14/1988 New Chief at Danvers Aims High
    New Chief at Danvers Aims High: Ray Richard, Boston Globe March 14, 1988 ​ The message surprised Peter Van Almkerk, a 36-year-old forensic medicine specialist who was nearing the end of his requirements for a doctorate in human organizational development. Call the commissioner's office right away, he was told in mid-January while doing casework at Bridgewater State Hospital. He was even more startled the next day, Van Almkerk recalls, when the state commissioner of mental health asked him to become the new head of Danvers State Hospital, a crowded institution for the mentally ill whose director had resigned a week earlier in the wake of criticism over the death of a patient. I was on another career path," Van Almkerk said. "I had just about finished my doctoral studies, I was at the end of my dissertation and my orals were scheduled for July." But he had worked with health institutions for 17 years, and he was familiar with many of the hospital's problems because his office as a regional forensic field manager had been in the same building as the hospital director's office. He also knew the North Shore and many of the workers in the health care agencies with whom he would be working. So he accepted. ​ Today, Van Almkerk has put his doctoral studies on hold and is breathing new life into the hospital that has served northeast Massachusetts since 1878. Instead of the 20 hours he was working for the department while teaching and pursuing his doctorate, he now finds 12-hour days normal and acceptable, Van Almkerk said recently while moving from one staff meeting to another and checking his calendar to see what meetings he had later in the day. Crowding at Danvers State Hospital is one of several major problems Van Almkerk hopes to address. For the last 10 years the mental hospital has been located in what had once been an acute-care medical facility. Before that, the mental hospital was located in the massive red brick and sandstone Kirkbride Building atop Danver's highest hill. The 110-year-old castle-like Kirkbride Building near Route 1 had housed up to 2,500 patients until it was closed, badly deteriorated by a century of use and too big and outdated to be needed any more for mental patients. The development of medicine to control aberrant behavior, an enlightened approach to mental illness and the establishment of a statewide system of community health centers since the early 1960s had shifted the treatment of mentally ill from institutions to community centers. ​ Danvers and the six other state mental hospitals had 25,000 patients in 1960. Today they have about 2,500. There are not fewer mentally ill people today, according to Assistant Mental Health Commissioner Kevin Preston. "If anything, there's more. But vast majorities of them can now lead relatively normal lives in the community through medication," Preston said. After Kirkbride's doors were locked, its patients were transferred to the nearby Bonner Building, which had been the acute-care hospital. While many patients left the institution at that time, the severest cases remained. Van Almkerk's hospital now houses about 300 patients in a facility built for 160. In addition, the hospital has trouble hiring -- and keeping -- employees, including doctors, because of low pay and the poor image many people have of working directly with the mentally ill, said Van Almkerk. "My major concern," he said, "are life-safety issues in terms of who is missing, the medical care we can provide, the whole issue of: Can we evacuate the building in a safe way if there were a fire or the electricity went out." Staff morale fell after widespread publicity followed the death of a patient who wandered out of the hospital last December, Van Almkerk said. The body of Ann Houghton, 61, of Lowell, was found the next day, 200 yards from the hospital. A preliminary autopsy report said she died of a heart attack. Because of the 17-hour lapse between Houghton's disappearance and the finding of her body, relatives of patients and advocates for the mentally ill charged that administrator William Bonnes was lax in the attempt to locate her. Bonnes resigned. A departmental investigation into the death criticized the hospital for not conducting a more efficient search of the 37 buildings and 540 acres of grounds. ​ That controversy was the second to hit the state facilities complex since last summer, when a series of articles in the North Shore Sunday newspaper criticized the way the Hogan/Berry Regional Center for the mentally retarded was run. The articles triggered protests charging mismanagement and civil rights violations by Superintendent Edward Budelmann. The Department of Mental Retardation, which was established last July, later cleared Budelmann of wrongdoing. But both reports pointed to problems at "Danvers," once solely a mental health facility that now houses operations for the departments of mental retardation, public health and youth services, and food and agriculture. Because of the crowded conditions and the need for more modern facilities, the state plans to build a 135- to 160- bed hospital on the Danvers State Hospital grounds. Designers are being hired, Preston said. Meanwhile, Danvers officials and private developers look longingly at the landmark Kirkbride Building 15 miles from Boston and the rolling hills and fields that surround it. "The town has had a definite interest in that property for many years," notes Town Manager Wayne Marquis. "It's a very valuable piece of property. It's the largest piece of open space in the town of Danvers. Developers driving by it become glassy-eyed." Kirkbride, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, should be preserved because of its architectural and historical significance, Marquis said. The Kirkbride Building, "although impressive, is neither appropriate for or capable of cost-effective rehabilitation for modern hospital standards," a 1985 state study said. The towns of Danvers or Middleton, where some of the property is located, could get the building or some of the land -- but only if the state gives it up.
  • 6/23/1988 State Says Patient Release Was Not Due To Crowding
    State Says Patient Release Was Not Due To Crowding: Rene Loth , Boston Globe June 23, 1988 ​ Edward Murphy, the state commissioner of mental health, said yesterday that the release of a Danvers State Hospital patient who stabbed and critically wounded his mother last week was "categorically" not related to chronic overcrowding at the facility. "The reason we have overcrowding is that we're not discharging indiscriminately," Murphy said. "The overcrowding situation at Danvers has actually gotten somewhat worse because of our caution on discharges." Murphy has directed two of his deputies to conduct a full review of the release and follow-up care of Daniel Connolly, 21, who was discharged from Danvers State Hospital two months ago. Connolly, who had been a patient at the hospital for five years, allegedly stabbed his mother seven times with a steak knife and screwdriver in her Lawrence rooming house last Wednesday night. Connolly's mother remains in critical condition at Lawrence General Hospital and friends said yesterday they had been told by the hospital she was in a coma. Connolly was charged with attempted murder and sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Murphy said the investigation will focus on the "clinical judgments" made by an evaluation team at Danvers State Hospital in releasing Connolly, described by friends of his mother as a disturbed young man prone to violent behavior. The investigation will also center on the follow-up care Connolly received from the hospital. ​ "It's clear that there was deliberate clinical review by qualified clinicians," Murphy said of the decision to allow Connolly to leave the facility. "The question is to look behind the procedures to the clinical judgments." Murphy would not comment on the specifics of Connolly's case, citing patient confidentiality. But he said Connolly was assigned a "very aggressive" case manager after his release, who visited him daily. He refused to comment on police reports that Connolly had apparently stopped taking prescribed medication before the stabbing. Murphy said he agreed with mental health advocates who have charged that a lack of sufficient community residences can often leave former mental patients with no place to go after they are released from state institutions. He said bureaucratic delays and community resistance have slowed the construction of halfway houses and other transitional residences Gov. Michael S. Dukakis promised in a $110 million initiative in 1985. But he said at least 60 new residential units would be placed "on line" between July and October in the area served by Danvers State Hospital. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Dukakis said the community residences are proceeding "as expeditiously as possible." He added: "We're not going to release patients from the hospitals . . . unless we know that there are good community services and facilities." In Connolly's case, however, the former patient simply moved into a room in a boarding house at 53 Bradford St. in Lawrence, a neighborhood state Rep. Kevin Blanchette (D-Lawrence) described yesterday as "troubled" and "marginal." Lawrence Police have described Bradford Street as an area where drugs are dealt openly. Louise Ferris, commissioner of inspectional services in Lawrence, said the boarding house is in good condition and passed a licensing inspection in May. But she said neighboring buildings had numerous sanitary code violations. Some have been the site of fires and others have been condemned, she said. The lack of transitional housing has resulted in a steady increase in the patient population in state hospitals such as Danvers, at more than double its capacity. Murphy said that at least 500 patients in hospitals statewide are "clinically ready for discharge with no place to go." In addition, 270 mentally retarded citizens have been inappropriately placed in the state mental hospital, he said. He also said several hundred elderly patients suffering from medical problems contribute to overcrowded
  • 9/21/1988 Massachusetts Is Under Criticism for Poor Care of the Mentally Ill.
    Massachusetts Is Under Criticism for Poor Care of the Mentally Ill. Susan Diesenhouse, New York Times August 21, 1988 ​ The Massachusetts system for the mentally ill, now in the midst of a five-year overhaul, is being faulted for poor care and unsafe conditions by legislators, patient advocates and mental health professionals and administrators. The Massachusetts system for the mentally ill, now in the midst of a five-year overhaul, is being faulted for poor care and unsafe conditions by legislators, patient advocates and mental health professionals and administrators. Delays in paying for part of the overhaul plan have led some to doubt that it will be fully carried out. A string of patient deaths in the past year, meanwhile, has led some mental health experts and patient advocates to question whether the plan will solve the problems in the system of 7 hospitals and 10 community health centers that treat 110,000 people a year. ​ The hospitals hold about 2,200 seriously ill patients while most of those treated at the health centers live at home, with some housed at the facilities. To balance state budgets for 1988 and 1989, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, the Democratic Presidential candidate, has withheld about $17 million that the Legislature allocated to expand care for the mentally ill, according to Edward M. Murphy, the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health. The Governor inherited a system of badly deteriorated state hospitals after his first election in 1974. But well into his third term, some patients in the state system for the mentally ill are kept in rooms where temperatures reach more than 100 degrees and sleep on bare mattresses in crowded facilities that are in need of repair. None of the hospitals are accredited and in 1986 the system was ranked 41st among the states in a survey by the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, a consumer advocacy group in Washington. $558 Million Voted for Plan In 1985, amid concern that a Federal court would take over the mental hospitals as it had the state's institutions for the retarded in the 1970's, the Governor proposed his five-year plan to improve care and facilities for the mentally ill. The legislature approved the plan that called for renovation of hospitals and health centers, the construction of some new facilities and increased staffs and improved services. The Legislature has allocated $558 million for the program so far. Philip W. Johnston, Secretary of the Executive Office of Human Services, said that despite withholding funds, ''The Governor has recognized the problem in care for the mentally ill which resulted from a generation of neglect and made the financial and political commitment to radical reform.'' Mr. Dukakis, after being defeated in the Democratic primary in 1978 in his first re-election bid, won a second term in 1982 and his third in 1986. As for the quality of care today, Mr. Johnston said, ''At the moment there is a lag between the allocations and implementation of the plan.'' In the past year, the deaths of nine patients at Worcester State Hospital and the deaths of seven at Danvers State Hospital have been questioned by patient advocacy groups. Commissioner Murphy found poor emergency medical care and a lack patient supervision by hospital staff members in four of the seven deaths for which investigations have been completed. Two of the other deaths are under investigation while Mr. Murphy has not called for inquiries in the other cases. After public hearings on eight of the deaths in Worcester, the Legislature's Committee on Human Services found ''major systemic problems'' leading to seriously deficient care. In a letter to Commissioner Murphy last week the committee chairmen, Representative Paul Kollios, a Democrat, and Senator John P. Houston, Democrat, called for an end to ''Band-Aid' solutions'' and the start of ''major changes which are long overdue.'' ​ Lawsuits Filed in Two Deaths: On July 26, two lawsuits were filed in State Superior Courts by the families of two of the patients who died at Worcester State Hospital, seeking compensation for what the suits said were the violations of the patients' civil rights. Steven J. Schwartz, the lawyer for the families, said one man was mentally retarded, should not have been admitted to the hospital and did not receive medication, which led to a fatal seizure. The other patient developed pneumonia that was not treated and neither patient received proper emergency care, Mr. Schwartz said. On June 1, the Alliance for the Mentally Ill, an advocacy group, filed suit in State Supreme Judicial Court, asking the court to declare unconstitutional the Governor's withholding of the allocated funds without legislative consent or public hearings. Geoffrey G. Brahmer, the group's director, said he feared that the five-year plan might not be fully implemented if such cuts continued. He said, ''Delays mean more time people must spend in barbaric conditions and shows the Governor's commitment to mental illness.'' Commissioner Murphy said that the funds withheld had been designated to pay for construction of supervised group homes for the mentally ill who do not require hospitalization. ​ Of the 2,200 hospital patients, Mr. Murphy said that several hundred are well enough that they could have been moved to the group homes had they been constructed. Those discharged would have relieved overcrowding in hospitals that are 104 percent to 220 percent of capacity, he said. ''If private psychiatric hospitals we license did this, we'd close them down,'' Mr. Murphy said. Mr. Murphy called the building where hospitalized patients are treated at the Dorchester-Mattapan Community Mental Health Center in Boston ''an embarrassment.'' On one recent day, some of the 60 patients in the building, who receive no vocational training, paced the floor muttering. One slept on a bare mattress on the floor in a cell. Bathrooms had clogged toilets, sinks filled with stagnant water and towels tucked around leaky tubs. Pieces of the bathroom walls were missing. 'Totally Unacceptable' Gerry Morrissey, the Mental Health Department's director for that region, said such conditions are ''totally unacceptable and clearly not what we want for our patients.'' At Metropolitan State Hospital in Waltham, temperatures that recently reached 93 degrees in the patient areas contrasted to the air-conditioned administrative offices. Many windows at the hospital do not open, 20 patients may sleep in one dormitory and share one shower and a day room where cigarette butts litter the floor. Anne M. Corapi, president of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill, said: ''It took months to get the administration to open the window in the seclusion room where it gets to 105 in the winter.'' Audrey Y. Deloffi, chief administrator for Metropolitan State Hospital, said refurbishing started in June in some areas and that an $18 million renovation was being planned. Angela K. Leech, a member of the board of the alliance, called for ''a blue-ribbon panel to get the Department of Mental Health back on track.''
  • 6/20/1991 State to Close 9 Inpatient Sites Within 3 Years
    Gov. Weld has accepted a panel's recommendation to close nine mental health facilities and public health hospitals within the next three years. The decision reflects the Weld administration's goal of privatizing many functions performed by state agencies. The state commission that made the recommendation yesterday said the closings would save taxpayers $60 million a year. Administration officials said the closings would start in three to four months, although some facilities will not be shut for three years. The consolidation does not need legislative approval. Despite Weld's assurances that no patient will be moved and no facility closed until clients and patients are placed in an "equal or better appropriate care setting," mental health activists warned that the closings could have a devastating effect on patients and increase homelessness. A state employee’s union official also warned the plan could cause hundreds of state workers to lose their jobs. The commission, appointed by Weld, issued a 100-page blueprint for consolidating the state's inpatient health care and human service system. It calls for the phasing out of three public health hospitals, three mental health hospitals and three facilities for mentally retarded people. Their patients will be transferred to private facilities. About 1,875 patients of the 6,500 now served by the system will be moved. The nine inpatient facilities represent about one quarter of the state institutions that remain open. The 17-member commission estimated the closings could save $144 million in one-time costs. When all the facilities are shut, the state will save $60 million annually in operating costs. Administration officials said they could not accurately estimate the cost of the consolidation plan, but said $14 million in the mental health department budget and another $6 million in the health and human services account will be used for the transition. The facilities slated to close are Danvers State Hospital, Northampton State Hospital and Metropolitan State Hospital in Waltham, which care for mentally ill patients; the Paul A. Dever State School in Taunton, the John T. Berry School in North Reading and the Foxborough campus of Wrentham State School, which treat mentally retarded clients; and Cushing Hospital in Framingham, Lakeville Hospital in Middleborough and Rutland Heights Hospital, public health hospitals that provide long-term chronic care. Under the plan, some patients at Danvers, for example, will be moved to Tewksbury Hospital, which has about 200 empty beds. Patients at Northampton State Hospital will be relocated to Holyoke Hospital and Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. State health officials will have to negotiate transfers with private hospitals, a process they said will be made easier by the number of empty beds that hospitals want to fill.
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