A patient at the Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility was found dead on Wednesday, APR has confirmed. The Alabama Department of Mental Health, which operates the all-male secure psychiatric facility, in a response to APR’s requests gave little information, but a worker there said the man is thought to have overdosed on illicit drugs.
“The Alabama Department of Mental Health is saddened to report the passing of a patient at the Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility. The cause of death is not yet determined. The family has been contacted,” an Alabama Department of Mental Health spokeswoman said Friday.
It’s against department policy to release patient names, the spokeswoman told APR in a follow-up response.
The worker, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation for speaking to a reporter, said there have been several drug overdoses at the facility, and that the drugs are entering the facility through staff. The man who died had previously overdosed, the worker said.
“So more than likely this time it killed him,” the person said. “Patients are supposed to be checked every 15 minutes, but when he was found, he had been dead for a while.”
Another person with knowledge of the death, who also reached out to APR this week, said accountability sheets, which are used to ensure patients are being checked every 15 minutes, may have been tampered with in the deceased man’s case.
The first worker described the facility’s staffing as being at “critical” levels. Taylor Hardin has been plagued with staffing shortages for several years, which has resulted in assaults and deaths.
Workers in a 2018 survey said that they were overworked in an unsafe environment with inoperable video cameras, contraband, racial and gender discrimination, and unreported incidents.
The facility houses inmates who are awaiting pre-trial competency evaluations, and others with serious mental illnesses.
“We are very short-staffed, which is not safe for the patients or staff,” said one worker in the 2018 survey.
The facility’s director and director of nursing both abruptly resigned in July 2020. APR’s attempts to verify rumors about why both resigned have been unsuccessful, but the staffing shortage problem has continued for years, worrying the worker who reached out to APR this week.
“We are even worse now than before, with critical staff levels. It is very dangerous,” the person said.