Helping Bridgewater State Hospital is a solution for our broken mental health care system

Letter to the Editor

By Nicholas Covino, President of William James College January 31, 2017

In early 2017, Governor Charlie Baker requested $37 million in additional spending to provide security and clinical services for men suffering from serious mental health disorders at Bridgewater State Hospital. In this letter to the editor President Covino applauded Governor Baker’s effort and advocated for the swift approval of his proposal. This letter to the editor was not published.


I commend Governor Baker’s commitment to improving the level of care for the 250 inmates at Bridgewater State Hospital. Nearly two thirds of inmates in local jails meet the criteria for a mental health disorder, and far too many are subjected to inadequacies in care, as well as overuse of restraint and solitary confinement.

The mission of Bridgewater State Hospital should reflect its name. Those responsible for the safety and wellbeing of mentally ill inmates must be qualified to provide the care and treatment they need. Governor Baker’s effort marks a crucial step towards repairing our broken mental health care system. Rather than further stigmatizing those who are mentally ill, we must realize that our state is responsible for treating this vulnerable population and the families who suffer with them. Mental illness impacts everyone, and our society must make it a higher priority to ensure this population is treated with dignity.

Our state is responsible for treating this vulnerable population and the families who suffer with them. 

Treating those with mental illness as patients rather than prisoners has great implications for

This model should be replicated in prisons throughout the country, as nearly two thirds of inmates in local jails meet the criteria for a mental health disorder.

Baker’s proposal deserves swift approval. State lawmakers should also fix an embarrassing anachronism in state law: Massachusetts is one of only two states in the country with its forensic hospital under the control of its Department of Correction. State Senator Cynthia Creem has already filed a bill to join the 48 states that handle the incarceration of psychiatric patients through their health departments. All government organizations have their own internal cultures, and it should be clear by now that entrusting the care of mentally ill inmates to the prison system is simply bad policy.