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Psychologist criticizes restraint, seclusion at Montana State Hospital

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HELENA, Mont. - Psychologist Dr. Michael R. Bütz on Tuesday called treatments used at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs dehumanizing, traumatic and outdated.

He was speaking as a witness for a lawsuit against the hospital filled by four psychiatric patients. The patients accuse hospital staff of abuse, forced isolation and failed treatment.

Restraint and seclusion are two practices that were under fire Tuesday at the District Courthouse in Helena.

Disability Rights Montana provided photographs to NBC Montana that they say show the seclusion rooms where two of the patients suing the hospital are kept 23 hours a day. One of patients has been kept there for the past four years.

Court documents describe instances at the hospital where patients have been forcefully restrained and secluded.

Butz said the practices make the patients' condition worse, not better.

Hospital staff have defended their use of restraint and seclusion from the witness stand. They say it's only used in emergency situations, to protect themselves and the patients when they have no other option.

They say the patients kept in seclusion suffer from mental illness and severe schizophrenia and can be dangerous.

The purpose of this week's hearings is to decide whether the hospital should be forced to release the two patients from seclusion while this lawsuit proceeds.

Judge Kathy Seeley has yet to issue a ruling.

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