State officials have notified the State Police and health regulators about an alleged incident at Eleanor Slater Hospital, the department that runs it acknowledged.
Sources familiar with the investigation say it involves a report of an alleged sexual assault of a patient by another patient. Eleanor Slater Hospital, licensed as a long-term acute care facility and run by the state, cares for patients with complex psychiatric or physical conditions at units in Burrillville and Cranston.
Randal Edgar, a spokesman for the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, said in an email Wednesday: “BHDDH is internally investigating an incident that is alleged to have occurred. Because of the nature of the alleged incident, the department has referred this matter to the State Police and the Department of Health and cannot provide any additional comment at this time.”
No sources would speak on the record in detail for this story. People who are familiar with the incident said it is alleged to have occurred in late August at the Adolf Meyer building in Cranston, and that an investigation would likely look into questions about not only whether a sexual assault happened, but if it did, how it may have happened. Some Eleanor Slater Hospital patients, by virtue of their developmental disabilities, are supposed to be closely monitored. In Rhode Island, it is a crime to have sexual contact or penetration with a person who is defined under the law as mentally disabled or incapacitated.
Disability Rights Rhode Island, part of a national network of protection and advocacy organizations created by Congress, is “investigating an alleged incident,” but had no comment, Executive Director Morna Murray said in an email Friday.
The Adolf Meyer building has a patient capacity of 48 beds; its patient population includes civil psychiatric patients and also, in some instances, forensic psychiatric patients. Forensic patients are people involved in the criminal justice system who need psychiatric care instead of prison. The Benton facility in Cranston is the state’s forensic psychiatric facility, but overflow patients there can be treated at the Adolf Meyer building, too.
A state-run hospital system, Eleanor Slater Hospital has been under scrutiny for the past year and a half over its finances, its structure, and the care it delivers to its patients. That scrutiny has come from federal, state, and private parties. Several top clinical leaders departed, arguing that the state was institutionalizing people, including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who would be better served in other settings.
The Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals announced in August that it was in “substantial compliance” with the conditions of participation for hospitals in the Medicare and Medicaid program as a long-term acute care hospital, after correcting deficiencies that regulators had found over several surveys in 2021 and this year.
But inquiries have continued, including one into the use of mechanical restraints.