Ten severely mentally ill children were removed yesterday from a building at D.C. General Hospital after city officials found conditions there that "border on inhumane," according to Deputy Mayor Carolyn Graham.
The children, ages 12 to 17, were enrolled in the Adolescent Day Treatment Program run by the city's Commission on Mental Health to provide counseling and other services. The program is housed in Building 25, which has many health and safety hazards, including heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems that are not working properly, according to advocates for the mentally ill.
"The children were in deplorable and dirty conditions," said Phyliss Morgan, president of the Family Advocacy and Support Association, who said there also was exposed asbestos in the building. She and other advocates urged Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) to move the children to a safer place.
Three months ago, advocates for the mentally ill petitioned Commission on Mental Health Receiver Scott H. Nelson, urging him to move the children because of the health hazards, Morgan said. "He has been unresponsive," Morgan said.
Nelson was out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment. He and the mental health commission, which is under court-ordered receivership, have been under fire recently from mental health advocates for not providing adequate services.
Graham, who oversees children and family issues, yesterday ordered the building inspected, and Commission on Mental Health staff members moved the children out, she said. The children's program will operate out of St. Elizabeths Hospital, Graham said.
"No child should be subjected to situations and treatment that border on inhumane," Graham said. "These are fragile children who are seriously emotionally disturbed."
According to a memo from Nelson's office, children should report Monday to Building 25, where they will be taken to 2700 Martin Luther King Avenue SE for continuation of their day treatment. Adults who are not contacted by phone over the weekend should also report to Building 25 for instructions. Call 202-282-0300 for information on children's services, 202-673-9000 for adult services.