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Official Press Release

Contact: Mark Van Sciver

Date: March 26, 2008

DHHS issues new guideline for reporting deaths

RALEIGH –In order to increase openness and oversight surrounding the death of any patient or resident in the care of a state-operated facility, including psychiatric hospitals, developmental centers, or substance abuse treatment facilities, the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services has issued new guidelines to be followed by all 15 facilities under its jurisdiction. The new requirements went into effect March 17.

According to James Osberg, chief of State Operated Services Section that oversees all state MH/DD/SAS facilities, all deaths in any state-operated facility must be reported to the local medical examiner’s office.

“This is only one step in a comprehensive reexamination of our procedures covering the death of any one in the care of our facilities,” said Osberg. “This policy includes the steps the facilities must take to report any death to the proper state and federal authorities.”

Under the new requirements, facility personnel must immediately notify the local medical examiner of the death prior to moving the body.  Autopsies will be conducted at the discretion of the medical examiner.

Osberg also said that the new policy further clarifies the facilities’ responsibilities for reporting all deaths to the appropriate state and federal agencies. 

All state-operated facilities certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are required to report deaths to the CMS regional office in Atlanta by telephone by the close of the next business day if a death occurs:

  • while a patient/resident is secluded or restrained.
  • within 24 hours of release of a patient/resident from seclusion or restraint.
  • within seven days of release of a patient/resident from seclusion or restraint where it is reasonable to assume that the seclusion or restraint contributed to the patient/resident’s death.  This includes patients/residents whose death occurred post discharge but within seven days of release from seclusion or restraint.

Facilities must also follow these same reporting requirements to the state Division of Health Service Regulation and the State Operated Services Section of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services. In addition to these reporting requirements, facilities must report all other patient/resident deaths, including those believed to be due to natural causes, within three days, and report within three days of being notified of a death of a patient or resident who was transferred from the facility or discharged within seven days.



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Mark Van Sciver
Acting Director