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DHMH will overhaul sexual abuse protections as part of settlement

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has reached a settlement with a former patient which includes an overhaul of sexual abuse protections in state-run hospitals and treatment facilities.

The plaintiff, identified as Jane Doe, filed suit in 2014 after being sexually assaulted by two patients while in the custody and care of two DHMH facilities, according to a news release from Venable LLP announcing the settlement.

Doe claimed hospital staff had knowledge of her mental impairments and history of victimization but failed to provide supervision to prevent an assault and then did not provide proper aid, according to the release. She suffered severe trauma and emotional injuries as a result of the attack.

Under the settlement, DHMH will institute universal safety precautions, use risk assessment screenings to identify safety risks, create personalized protection plans and incorporate them into treatment, report allegations of abuse to law enforcement and overhaul investigation procedures, among other changes.

Venable and Disability Rights Maryland partnered to bring the lawsuit and negotiate the settlement. Jane Doe will also receive the maximum recovery allowed under the State Tort Claims Act and continue to receive services from the state as needed.

Sarah Rhine, who served as the volunteer “next friend” for Jane Doe during the litigation, jointly approved the settlement.

“Ms. Doe is a kind young woman who was clearly vulnerable to abuse but has shown incredible strength,” Rhine said in a prepared statement. “The fact that she entered our health system in need of treatment and was victimized in such a violent manner was a failure of massive proportion.”

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