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Bridgewater restraints use rose, even after a death

Joshua K. Messier, a 23-year-old mental health patient, was killed while guards were placing him in four-point restraints at Bridgewater.
Joshua K. Messier, a 23-year-old mental health patient, was killed while guards were placing him in four-point restraints at Bridgewater.

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For more than a decade, officials at Bridgewater State Hospital have been promising to cut down on the increasingly discredited practice of restraining mentally ill men, strapping their wrists and ankles to a bed, or isolating them in a small cell for days or even weeks at a time. But statistics provided to the Globe show that the state’s most secure psychiatric facility actually increased its reliance on isolation and restraints over the past decade, even after a Bridgewater patient died in 2009 while being restrained and other mental health facilities have moved decisively away from those tactics. Patients at Bridgewater were more than 100 times as likely to be placed in restraints or isolation as patients at other state mental health facilities in 2013, records show, revealing Bridgewater’s reliance on approaches widely viewed by psychiatrists as outdated and even dangerous.

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