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August 10, 2007


DiNapoli Calls for Enhanced Security
at South Beach Psychiatric Center

Relaxed security measures at Staten Island’s South Beach Psychiatric Center (SBPC) could threaten the safety of patients, staff and the public, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“Security at South Beach shouldn’t be about convenience,” DiNapoli said. “It has to be a full-time commitment. There are security procedures and protocols in place. South Beach should follow them. Patients should be protected, and they should be where they need to be, all the time.

“If patients are off-grounds, there have to be assurances that they have authorization to be off-grounds. The 2005 tragedy should not be repeated. Restoring public confidence in SBPC’s security will help lessen the stigma that frequently befalls those suffering from mental illness – especially for those re-entering society. Fortunately, South Beach has already started to address the concerns we’ve raised.”

DiNapoli’s audit found South Beach security personnel routinely failed to properly screen vehicle operators and passengers entering and leaving the facility. Auditors also observed a large gap in the eight-foot perimeter fence surrounding the center. In one tragic incident in 2005, a patient who was not authorized to leave the South Beach campus bypassed security and was found to have committed suicide the next day.

According to New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR), the New York State Office of Mental Health is required to establish an incident management program to ensure all incidents are recorded and investigated promptly. Auditors found that more than 40 percent of reportable incidents observed in its sample, including several patient escapes and assaults, were not recorded in OMH’s New Incident Management Reporting System (NIMRS).

In addition to recommending stronger compliance with existing security practices and enhancement of the physical security of the facility, the audit also recommends all facility staff be trained on proper use of NIMRS and that all independent incident records maintained by the center’s safety and security office are reconciled with the database.

Officials at OMH concurred with the audit’s recommendations. A multi-million dollar upgrade of the facility, which began in November 2006, is expected to make it more secure. OMH’s full response is included in the audit.

Click here for a copy of the audit.

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