The death of a 56-year-old mental health technician, Rick Stewart, at the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia is now being investigated by the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), its director of communications confirmed earlier this month.
While DHS has expressed that it is “very saddened by [Stewart’s] death and sends condolences to his family,” it has not released any other information at this time due to the pending investigation.
What Is Currently Known about Stewart’s Death
According to confidential sources close to the incident, Stewart was working at Murray Center on the night of July 31st when a resident of Apple Cottage allegedly punched him in the chest. The resident, who reportedly has behavioral issues, then allegedly stomped on Stewart’s chest before he could get up.
Witnesses report that Stewart got immediately up after this and kept working. About an hour and 45 minutes later, he had a heart attack and was rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital in Centralia. Stewart was subsequently transferred to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, where he was kept on life support until passed away on August 6th.
The resident who is alleged to have attacked Stewart has since been relocated from Murray Center to Choate Developmental Center without incident.
According to State Representative Charlie Meier, altercations like this one are not uncommon at Murray Center, where it sometimes takes as many as five staff members to hold down residents who are having “meltdowns.” Meier has also noted that Murray Center is not currently fully staffed and that he looks forward to the day when funding can make sufficient staffing possible at the Center.
The Illinois State Police (ISP) is currently investigating this incident as a possible homicide. The union that represents staff at the Murray Center (AFSCME) has stated that it is working with Stewart’s family and will issue a statement regarding the death at a later date.
Workplace Violence Is a Real Threat for Many
This tragic death is a window into the issue of workplace violence, which impacts many American workers across a wide range of industries. In fact, just to give some perspective about how problematic and deadly workplace violence can be, here are some eye-opening statistics:
- About 9 percent of workplace fatalities are caused by workplace violence.
- About 19 percent of the deaths of health care workers and treatment practitioners are caused by workplace violence.
- Homicide is the number two cause of death for women at work, followed by motor vehicle accidents.
- There’s a far greater risk of deadly workplace violence for those who work around unstable, volatile people.
As more news about this investigation becomes available, we’ll report the latest updates to you here in our blog. Until then, share your comments about this story with us on Facebook & Google+.
Contact a Mount Vernon Workers Compensation Attorney at the Law Firm of Hassakis & Hassakis, P.C.
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