updated 7/28/2005 5:46:13 PM ET 2005-07-28T21:46:13

Patients at a state mental hospital overdosed on illegal drugs, were improperly restrained for hours on end and were forced to spend 12 hours in soiled diapers, according to a scathing report issued by the U.S. Justice Department.

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The report said the problems were among “widespread and systematic deficiencies” at Napa State Hospital, including suicide and inadequate medical care. Some patients were bathed only every two to four weeks, the report said.

State officials were given until Aug. 15 to implement “minimum remedial measures” at the mental hospital, which has about 1,100 patients.

Lupe Rincon, a hospital spokeswoman, said many allegations were based on inaccurate information from family members, advocates and old surveys. But she said she could not respond to specific complaints.

“Releasing further information could compromise our negotiations for a settlement agreement” with the Justice Department, she said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office had no response to the report, contained in a June 27 letter to him, and directed inquiries to the state Department of Mental Health.

The Justice Department investigation began in January 2004. The California Department of Mental Health has refused to cooperate, repeatedly preventing access to the facility, said the letter from Bradley J. Schlozman, acting assistant attorney general. A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Department of Mental Health spokeswoman Kirsten Macintyre said Thursday the department did not deny access, but simply asked for a delay because an investigation is “a huge diversion of resources” and because time and money was already being spent on preparing for the hospital’s reaccreditation, which takes place this fall.

“I’m not saying we’re perfect on patient care,” said Macintyre, who added that the department already has improved some of its problem areas. “But you have to present things in a fair light.”

The report also said that hospital staff punished patients who sought release, failed to provide English interpreters and refused to intervene during violent episodes among patients.

Three patients also overdosed on methamphetamine or cocaine in the fall of 2004 and one died, according to the report. Three other patients were able to use heroin, the report said.

Restraints and seclusion also are overused at Napa, according to the Justice Department. The report cited one patient who was restrained for 369 consecutive hours.

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