This week, Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Mike Carroll directed a review to enhance suicide prevention practices at the three state-operated mental health treatment facilities to ensure every individual in the state’s care has the safest and most appropriate setting to aid in their recovery. The review follows three tragic deaths by suicide at two state mental health treatment facilities in the last month.
Secretary Carroll said, “It is alarming and devastating that three individuals have died at the facilities and we are grieving with their families. While we know that the people we serve are dealing with serious mental illness, I absolutely will not accept any preventable deaths, including suicide, at these facilities. I immediately directed Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse and Mental Health John N. Bryant to have our Chief Hospital Administrator launch an investigation into staff compliance with our requirement to conduct regular visual safety checks and we have initiated a review of environmental management practices at each facility to enhance suicide prevention procedures. Our number one job is to keep those in our care safe and on the road to recovery and we will never stop working to do just that.”
On April 9, Secretary Carroll directed Assistant Secretary Bryant to have DCF’s Chief Hospital Administrator immediately investigate staff compliance with the requirement to conduct visual safety checks in a timely manner at all three facilities, as well as conduct environmental safety reviews for all resident rooms and common areas. At the Secretary’s direction, facility administrators will also consult with treatment staff to evaluate opportunities to improve resident care, including modification of therapy and activity schedules, increasing weekend staffing levels, and enhancing suicide risk recognition and assessment.
Each of the fatalities is being investigated by facility administration and DCF’s Adult Protective Services (APS) program. Two of the fatalities occurred at Northeast Florida State Hospital in MacClenny on March 18 and April 8, and the third occurred at Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee on April 7. In compliance with federal and state health privacy law, this is all of the information available for public release at this time. These fatalities are the first since 2015 and the sixth of which have occurred in the past eight years.