New director appointed for mental care

April 8, 2009 5:13:25 PM PDT
A new administration is promising big changes and better care for thousands of mental health patients treated in state facilities.Luckey Welsh is two weeks on the job, but has 40 years of hospital administration experience.

His appointment comes after another patient fell, hit his head and was left unattended for a full day and died at cherry hospital and other reports of patient abuse and staff arrests.

"We have human beings, taking care of human beings and therefore you have mistakes and sometimes you have people who really shouldn't be in their positions that should not be there," Welsh said. "Our job is going to be making sure we have the right people caring for the patients doing the best job they can and I'll promise you that if we find those who should not be there, they will be moved out. That's going to be our goal and our promise to the people."

The Sinsapaugh family of Wake County say their 25-year-old autistic son did not receive the proper care he needed while at a state mental health facility in Goldsboro.

At the age of 17, Roxanne Sinsapaugh says her son was allowed to bang his head on the O'Berry Center's wall and floor for hours. She says he had an earache and couldn't communicate.

"The pain is so excruciating he wants it out," Sinsapaugh said. "So, because he's nonverbal, because he's deaf, he's got all these other issues he's dealing with, Shaun's a head-banger."

She says he started banging his head at 1:30 a.m. and wasn't stopped by staff and given medicine until 4 hours later.

"I'm surprised he's alive," Sinsapaugh said.

Eyewitness News showed the new director of the state's 15 mental health and substance abuse facilities pictures of Shawn.

"I can tell you this is not what we're going to tolerate, this is not the kind of care we want to provide," Welsh said.

It's a promise that gives the Sinsapaugh family hope.

"I'm excited about it," Sinsapaugh said. "I'm hoping and I'm praying that we will continue to strengthen the system."

They're hoping other families like theirs will get the help and care they need.

Sinsapaugh says instead of suing the state, she is working as an advocate for children with disabilities and working with the state.


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