The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) today announced after 40 years of litigation and negotiations, the Hartley case, also known as E.H., et al. v. Matin, et al., has been dismissed.
“This has been a very long journey for the state of West Virginia and for DHHR,” said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet Secretary. “It took an open dialogue and the development of trust among all parties to bring this matter to conclusion. Our journey in caring for those with mental health conditions and disabilities, however, does not end here. We must continue what we have started, and we still have much to do.”
The original lawsuit filed in 1981 was to address patients’ rights to humane conditions and therapeutic treatment. Over the course of 40 years, the case has covered many related issues, and has been under the purview of several judges, with the last being Judge Louis E. “Duke” Bloom dismissing the case.
“I am grateful for Judge Bloom’s firm commitment to the care and treatment of those in need of DHHR’s services for those with mental health conditions,” added Crouch. “I began these discussions by saying that we all wanted the same thing for those we serve, and I believe these shared goals contributed to the resolution of this case. Additionally, the partnership with Court Monitor David Sudbeck, and the advocates from Disability Rights of West Virginia and Mountain State Justice, all recognize that DHHR shares the same vision of safety and offering the highest quality of care to our patients while maintaining positive working conditions for our staff.”
The dismissal order obligates DHHR to continue funding community-based mental health services and the independent patient advocates inside the two hospitals. DHHR also will create a new Office of the Mental Health Ombudsman to transition from judicial oversight to a departmental administrative process.