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Utah agencies review 159 client deaths

Utah agencies review 159 client deaths

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Suicides and accidental deaths among clients of Utah's social services agencies reached a five-year high in fiscal year 2010, according to government records obtained by a newspaper.

Reports compiled by the Utah Department of Human Services show a total of 159 deaths in the fiscal year that ended June 30, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Of those, 18 were determined to be accidental, up from 12 the year before. Ten were attributed to suicides, a number that has risen for five straight years.

When we know someone is at risk for suicide, we do everything we can to prevent it from happening regardless of where they are residing.

–Rick Hendy

But the annual collection of reports prepared by the DHS Office of Service Review says none of its divisions were to blame for any of the 159 fatalities, the newspaper reported.

"The committees determined that in all 159 cases, DHS services provided to the clients and/or their families did not contribute to the clients' deaths," the final report said.

The numbers also show to a reduction in homicides involving clients and fewer abuse or neglect cases that ended in death.

The deaths included 40 children, seven of whom died by suicide and two by abuse or neglect, the reports say. The rest died of natural causes or accidents.

The abuse or neglect cases included:

  • One boy, who was 11, who died at a hospital a day after receiving scalding injuries in a family bathtub. His parents reportedly ignored his screams of pain for hours.
  • Another boy, 2 months old, who was smothered to death by his mother, the reports say.

A summary of the reports examined by the newspaper contained no identifying information about any of the people and gave only general details about the cause of their deaths. It did not say whether anyone was charged.

The 18 accidental deaths ranged from drug intoxication to motor-vehicle crashes. One involved a patient on a day pass from the Utah State Hospital who died at home of a gunshot wound after handling a shotgun his parents thought was unloaded.

Of the 10 suicides -- including the child suicides -- many were teenagers who hanged themselves.

"When we know someone is at risk for suicide, we do everything we can to prevent it from happening regardless of where they are residing," said Rick Hendy, adult mental health program administrator for the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

"With community-based care, there is a higher risk for suicide," he said. "We still believe that living in the community, surrounded by natural supports, is the best thing for children and adults dealing with mental health issues."

A fatality-review committee for the Utah Department of Human Services made a dozen recommendations for improving services to lessen fatality risks.


(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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