Insider: Staff smuggles bath salts, spice into AZ mental hospital; patients addicted to substances

Synthetic drugs like bath salts and spice are regularly smuggled into Arizona’s state mental hospital, according to employees, patients and records.

ABC15 obtained probate court documents that show patients use the substances inside the hospital and some have become “addicted” to them.

Inside sources said the situation is “scary” and that employees are responsible for bringing synthetic drugs into the hospital and giving them to patients.

In one patient’s annual medical report, a doctor wrote, “he uses bath salts and or spice and he would not tell us how he obtains those substances .”

The report continues, “He supposedly has credit cards and a large amount of money in the bank which he uses to buy things to other patients and pay for substances for himself and other patients on the unit…As per staff, other patients know that he has a large amount of money and they intimidate him and threaten him so that he would buy drugs and other things for them.”

When asked why staff would smuggle these items and give them to patients, one employee said, “So they make friends. So maybe they are not going to get attacked. So they feel safer. So maybe they feel that the patient is their friend and not going to harm them.”

In 2012, the Arizona State Hospital eliminated its security force .

Patients, staff and experts said it was a move that made the hospital an even more dangerous place.

Last year, an ABC15 investigation discovered that there were 855 assaults in a one-year period. In many cases, patients and staff were hospitalized with serious and life-threatening injuries.

“That’s not a hospital environment,” said Mark Wellek MD, a national expert who’s run a private psychiatric hospital. “That is the street.”

Wellek said the hospital is only made more dangerous with the addition of hallucinogens like bath salts and spice.

“If you give an hallucinogen to somebody who’s already hallucinating, you make things much worse,” he said. “It’s like giving arsenic to somebody who already has ulcers.”

Multiple employees tell ABC15 that the hospital is still as dangerous as ever and that the hospital remains very short-staffed.

In fact, sources said temporary staff are often assigned to some of the most dangerous or high-risk patients who require around-the-clock supervision.

During a failed federal inspection last year , the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that many of those temporary staff lacked sufficient training, skills and experience to watch those patients and discovered the hospital never checked their qualifications.

State hospital officials turned down interview requests.

In a brief statement, a spokesperson said, “ADHS takes seriously the issue of contraband at the State Hospital. We continuously evaluate the situation and appropriately adapt our prevention measures to best protect the safety of patients and staff.”

Every story in ABC15’s ongoing investigation into the Arizona State Hospital can be found here . Reach ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at dbiscobing@abc15.com .

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