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GAO Objects to Settlement Ending DOJ Lawsuit


As a result of the ongoing dialogue between the Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO) and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the unsafe conditions and practices at the State’s seven (7) Psychiatric Hospitals, the AJC “Hidden Shame” series (Click here if you would like to read the series of articles.), and complaints from other mental health advocates and concerned citizens, the United States filed a complaint against the State of Georgia. The DOJ alleged that the protections, supports, services, and treatment at the Hospitals substantially depart from generally accepted professional standards of care and applicable federal law, thereby exposing the individuals residing there to significant risk of harm, and in some cases, to actual harm and death. The DOJ and the State of Georgia reached a Settlement Agreement that would end the lawsuit.The United States found that Georgia’s institutions have failed to ensure safety, failed to provide adequate treatment, have inappropriately used seclusion and restraints, failed to provide adequate medical care, failed to provide adequate services to people with special needs, and failed to provide adequate discharge planning to assure placement in the most integrated setting. Georgia confines persons of all ages with mental illness and developmental disabilities in institutions without specific standards of care or adequate supervisory, professional and direct care staff. A coalition of stakeholders, including the Georgia Advocacy Office, Cynthia Wainscott, the Carter Center, Mental Health America, Mental Health America of Georgia, Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Georgia Parent Support Network, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, John J. Gates, Ph.D., and Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, have asked Judge Charles A. Pannell Jr., United States District Court, Northern Division of Georgia in Atlanta, to withhold approval of the settlement.To view the full documents, GAO’s objections and expert affidavit, stakeholders’ objections and Susan Jamieson’s affidavit, please click on this link to the Bazelon Law Center.

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