Montana’s psychiatric hospital is poorly run and neglect has hastened patient deaths, lawsuit says

Nov 1, 2023, 4:47 PM

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s state psychiatric hospital has been so poorly run for decades that patients are unsafe and not treated with dignity and respect, which combined with a pattern of understaffing, lack of training and neglect has hastened the deaths of two patients, a lawsuit filed this week states.

The families of Lucio DiMauro and David Patzoldt, and patient Lesley Jungers, filed a federal lawsuit in Butte on Tuesday alleging low-income residents with mental health issues are “systematically abused and neglected,” at the Montana State Hospital.

“This case is about holding those in power responsible and accountable for the entirely preventable damages to these Plaintiffs, and to force change so these tragedies don’t happen to others,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit names Gov. Greg Gianforte, the director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services, and the director of the state hospital along with the state and its health department.

State law prohibits any form of abuse or neglect of people admitted to a mental health facility, requires that their privacy and dignity be protected, that they have adequate supervision and medical treatment and live in a humane environment that is comfortable and safe. It also requires regular housekeeping and maintenance and that the facility be kept in good repair.

The Montana State Hospital violates those laws and its patients’ constitutional rights to dignity and due process, the lawsuit states. The facility is located in Warm Springs — a town of about 600 people about 23 miles (37 kilometers) northwest of Butte.

Spokespeople for the governor’s office and the health department said they generally don’t comment on ongoing litigation.

DiMauro, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2012, was admitted to the Montana State Hospital in September 2020. He was regularly overmedicated, suffered numerous falls that his guardian was not notified about, contracted COVID-19 and on Aug. 5, 2020 was diagnosed with colon cancer, according to the complaint. A doctor expected him to live for another three to six months, the complaint states.

Staff administered DiMauro the pain medication morphine and an anti-anxiety medication every three hours until his death — just 13 days later. As his health deteriorated his sister asked for the Catholic sacraments of Last Rites to be performed, but that did not happen, the lawsuit states. Staff also failed to treat a wound on his forehead that he suffered in a fall, the lawsuit states.

Patzoldt, then 75, was admitted to the Montana State Hospital on Oct. 19, 2021, after having behavioral disruptions at a memory care center. He had numerous health problems and mental health issues, including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and congenital heart failure.

Four months later, Patzoldt died of sepsis, COVID pneumonia and cellulitis — or deep skin infections. He also had pressure ulcers. A review of his records found his heart medication was not given to him for nearly three weeks in November 2021, the lawsuit states.

Jungers, a current patient, was admitted to the state hospital for treatment of bipolar 1 disorder, but escaped from her room several times, even when she was supposed to be under one-to-one supervision. She has been diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia as well, the complaint states.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stopped paying the Montana State Hospital for patient treatment in April 2022, saying it was inadequately staffed, repeatedly put patients in jeopardy and that it failed to correct problems even after being told it was at risk of losing federal funding.

CMS said shortfalls contributed to the deaths of at least four patients, a severe assault and a COVID-19 outbreak — and that the death of a fifth patient was not adequately investigated. That patient had been told to stop being so dramatic and go back to her room when she complained that she couldn’t catch her breath. She was found dead 45 minutes later.

With its large budget surplus, the 2023 Montana Legislature, allocated a $300 million investment in the state’s behavioral health system. A commission is expected to make its recommendations by next July.

The health department has also hired a consulting firm to temporarily manage all of the state’s health care facilities and make recommendations for improvements.

The lawsuit asks a federal judge to order the state to provide a safe environment for state hospital patients, maintain the staffing needed to provide adequate treatment and for the basic needs of patients along with actual and compensatory damages.

United States News

Associated Press

Tornado kills multiple people in Iowa as powerful storms again tear through Midwest

GREENFIELD, Iowa (AP) — Officials said multiple people were killed Tuesday when a tornado ripped through a small town in Iowa, decimating homes and damaging businesses. The town of Greenfield’s hospital was among the buildings damaged — which meant that at least a dozen people hurt had to be taken to hospitals elsewhere, according to […]

32 minutes ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in a courtroom next to his lawyer Todd Blanche before the start ...

Associated Press

Trump hush money trial enters new phase after defense rests without testimony from former president

Donald Trump's hush money trial is now closer to the moment when the jury will begin deciding the former president's fate.

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Rangers recover the body of a Japanese climber who died on North America’s tallest peak

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Rangers have recovered the body of a Japanese man who died after an apparent fall while climbing North America’s tallest peak, authorities said Tuesday. Denali National Park and Preserve identified the climber as T. Hagiwara, from Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. He was identified by his first initial in keeping with his family’s […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Detroit could be without Black representation in Congress again with top candidate off the ballot

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Detroit Democrat will not appear on the ballot after building significant support within the party in his attempt to unseat U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar in Michigan’s August primary, after election officials determined that he had not submitted enough valid signatures. Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett’s ruling on Tuesday to keep […]

5 hours ago

DeAnn Kilgore grappled with the unexpected letter from her husband's killer, Michael Moore. Despite...

SuElen Rivera

Letters lead to meeting killer, life-changing moment

DeAnn Kilgore grappled with the unexpected letter from her husband's killer, Michael Moore. Despite initial reluctance, she read it, prompting a profound journey of forgiveness and spiritual healing for herself and her family.

5 hours ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

Sponsored Articles



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

Montana’s psychiatric hospital is poorly run and neglect has hastened patient deaths, lawsuit says