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(Photo Credit: Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)


Secretary Simons Responds to Our DHMH Demands

December 8, 2016

Dear Mr. Moran,

Thank you for your letter sent in an email the evening of December 1, 2016. As you are aware, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Developmental Disabilities Administration hold the safety and care of our staff in equal regard to the safety and care provided to the Marylanders we are charged to support.

This is one aspect of our common ground.

I am addressing individually and specifically the list
of immediate corrections you have purported we take.

1. Remodel the staff booth near the front door. Install security glass in place of the flimsy Plexiglas. Replace the interior doorknob with a more standard model—the current knobs
limit workers’ ability to quickly open the door. Eliminate the first four to six feet of countertop, as the depth of the current countertops limit workers’ line of sight to the entrance door. Security glass should also be added to doors so workers can see who is on the other side.

  • Within 10 working days, Plexiglass and door knobs will be replaced. Remodeling of the office space and security glass on doors will be assessed by DHMH Chief of Police and SETT Police staff on 12/12/2016 with any procurement needs followed up on within an expedited manner. Relocation of staff offices on suites will also be assessed by 12/12/2016.

2. Issue emergency call buttons and/or radios to all staff.
The call buttons need to be wired back to a central command.

  • Within 10 working days, radios will be purchased to ensure inventory is sufficient for all staff members to carry a radio and for standby charging needs. All staff will be trained on radio use. Assessment, contractor and bidding needs will be reviewed for a hardwire intercom call system.

3. Line metal boxes and electrical conduits with safety padding. Several hallways have these exposed. Their sharp edges are a serious concern. If an employee or patient falls into these, there is a high chance for deep, blood drawing cuts.

  • Modifications were designed earlier for the metal box in the hallway with anticipated completion date of 12/8/2016. A safety assessment by Potomac Center’s Health and Safety Specialist will be conducted on 12/9/2016 to note all such needs. Thereafter, additional needs will be enclosed within the next 10 working days. Monthly inspections will be conducted to ensure modifications remain intact and hazards identified and addressed immediately.

4. Heavy objects should be bolted down. During the visit, the AFSCME team noticed that the furniture in the Day Room was not bolted down. Furniture legs can easily be broken off and used as a weapon. Additionally, the televisions should be behind a protective case, where they cannot be torn off the walls.

  • All furniture will be bolted down to floor within 10 days. TV enclosures will be purchased and installed upon receipt. Furniture and appliances will be checked monthly to ensure they remain intact.

5. Corridor lights should only be able to be controlled by staff.
It is a major concern if patients can control the hallway lights.

  • A lighting assessment will be conducted for installation of lower level night lighting that remains on permanently. Current switches will have enclosures installed within 10 working days. This will be a part of the monthly safety inspection checklist.

6. Ensure that storage closets are in compliance with OSHA.
They are cluttered, full of potential weapons, and cannot close properly.

  • Potomac Center Health and Safety Officers will be onsite at the SETT 12/9/2016 to ensure all storage closets are compliant with OSHA standards. Staff who have access to the closets will be educated of compliance requirements.The inspection of these closets will be added to the monthly safety inspection.

7. Ensure that the facility is properly equipped with regularly serviced fire extinguishers. During the visit, the AFSCME team only saw one buried in a janitorial closet.

  • Potomac Center Health and Safety Officers will be onsite at the SETT 12/9/2016 to ensure all fire extinguisher needs are assessed. Additionally he will review the regular and routine inspection visits by Fire Personnel, with the most recent visit being the week of November, 14 2016. Availability, security and working order of the fire extinguishers will be added to the monthly safety inspection checklist.

8. Install security glass in the medication room service window.
Right now, when the rollup window is open, anyone can jump in.

  • Effective immediately, all receiving medications will be accompanied by staff to the medication room service window. An assessment for modification will be made on 12/9/2016 and the procurement process to address needs will follow the next
    business week.

9. Explore options for lighting in the green hallway.
The current fluorescent lighting creates a glare that limits visibility.

  • A lighting assessment will be conducted for instillation of lower level night lighting that remains on permanently with bright, normal light used for general consumption, removing fluorescent lighting. Operation of lighting systems will be part of the monthly safety inspection checklist.

10. Provide the written policies and procedures on moving clients and where workers are supposed to be stationed during these movements. Review emergency procedures to
ensure that safe rooms and emergency exits are clearly identified.

  • Potomac Center Health and Safety Officer, DHMH Chief of Police and SETT Police Staff, and CEO will be meeting on 12/12/2016 to begin developing policies and procedures to address protocol should an incident such as this occur again. This group will be reviewing the current residential and clinical procedures proposed in moving residents around the various suites, rec areas and new treatment space. Mock drills will be held quarterly, across all shifts, with a follow-up review of each drill for areas of improvement, or possible changes to policies and procedures.

11. Install more convex mirrors as soon as possible. Visibility needs to be improved.

  • Potomac Center Health and Safety Officer, DHMH Chief of Police and SETT Police Staff, and CEO will be meeting on 12/12/2016 to review independent assessment recommendations for safety and security needs. Most appropriate, shatterproof mirrors will be ordered and installed thereafter.

12. Install electronic doors that can be opened by a worker in the main booth. It is a
concern that workers would have to get a key and fumble around with each door to
escape a dangerous situation.

  • Police and security staff have been an option for staff who do not or cannot use keys to access areas. Radio inventory within 10 working days will be of assistance also. Assessment recommendations made on 12/12/2016 will lead to acquiring an
    estimate or bid of door and lock replacements.

13. Hire more staff, especially Security Attendants. Security Attendants are a specialized classification who are trained in de-escalation techniques and maintaining security specifically for the forensic population treated by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Currently, the SETT unit has no Security Attendants, despite being a forensic facility.

  • Needed vacant positions are in the process of recruitment or on-boarding. Training will be procured and provided to all staff by two national organizations that specialize in the treatment of individuals with intellectual disability and behavioral health needs.

14. Address the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health complaints at the Potomac Center. The Development Disabilities Administration must do more to help staff deal with this
court-ordered population.

  • Potomac Center continues to work with the investigator from the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration. We are awaiting an exit meeting regarding their to be announced findings from a complaint filed at Potomac Center. AFSCME and the Department were informed that this will take place after December 15, 2016.

Again, thank you for your letter and your commitment. I have every
confidence that we will work together on the common ground we have identified.


Bernard Simons
Deputy Secretary
Development Disabilities Administration

cc: Van T. Mitchell, Secretary, DHMH
cc: Robin Weagley,CEO, SETT Program and Potomac Center
cc: Alex Doring, Esq., Employee-Labor Relations Liaison, DHMH


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