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Inappropriate contact reported at Western Pysch

| Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 9:34 p.m.

A mother said Tuesday that staff at an Oakland psychiatric facility told her another patient inappropriately touched her son.

Pittsburgh police acting Cmdr. Kevin Kraus confirmed police are investigating the report of the incident at Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic.

The boy, 7, is autistic and was referred to Western Psych from Mon Valley Hospital on Thursday night, his mother said. The Tribune-Review is not identifying her to protect her son's identity.

He was admitted to Western Psych on Friday morning, she said. She called staff on Monday after learning that a girl, 8, was sexually assaulted at the facility on March 8.

“They never told me they had an incident like that, or I would have never put my son there,” she said. “That's when they told me my son was touched inappropriately by another patient.”

She said she immediately headed to the hospital, and a doctor called her on the way to explain that another patient who doesn't communicate verbally grabbed her son's genitals on Friday.

She said her son told an employee after seeing the patient do the same thing to the employee. The boy told her he was touched twice, she said.

“They told me this kind of thing happens a lot because they have kids that aren't communicable, and they grab people inappropriately to get a response,” she said. “It shouldn't happen. Kids like that should be on their own private floor where they can be properly supervised.”

UPMC spokeswoman Gloria Kreps said the boy told staff on Monday, at which point they informed his mother. Mental health providers are restricted by privacy laws from disclosing patient details, she said.

“We take any allegation of harm very seriously, with safety at the forefront of care for our patients,” Kreps said.

Staff members who suspect physical, sexual or emotional harm remove the patient from the situation, and notify parents if a child is involved and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, she said.

“Involvement of police is on a case-by-case basis,” Kreps said. “We conduct an internal investigation, during which the patient is interviewed by a physician to validate the veracity of any allegation.”

Police on Friday charged a male patient, 14, with sexually assaulting a female patient, 8, while the two were alone in a playroom.

“Kids are supposed to be going there to get help and get better, not have something happen that would make their mental state worse,” the mother of the 7-year-old boy said.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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