CHICAGO (CN) – Patients at the Elgin Mental Health Center have limited access to telephones, often wait for more than an hour to use one of the few phones available, have to nag staff members to turn the phones back on after meals and medication times, and are barred from speaking privately with their lawyers, according to a class action in Cook County Court.
The patients are limited to 15 minutes per call, the lawsuit claims, and the center lets the patients police the time limits. As a result, patients who are “more timid, less intimidating or less functional often receive less time on the telephone,” the plaintiffs claim.
Patients say the consequences of the center’s inadequate phone service include the inability to receive calls, lost contact with friends and family, and difficulty coordinating in-person visits.
However, the center bars patients from owning or using cell phones.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the cell-phone ban until the state Department of Human Services complies with the law, which states that patients have a right to “unimpeded, private, and uncensored communication with person of (their) choice by mail, telephone and visitation.”