Settlement reached in case against Arkansas mental hospital

By PEGGY HARRIS

LITTLE ROCK - A settlement has been reached in a suit filed by the guardian of a Dardanelle woman who jumped off an overpass above Interstate 430 after escaping from a mental hospital, lawyers said Tuesday.

Skip Simpson of Dallas, an attorney for the guardian of Alysia Ashley, said the case exemplifies what happens to many people who are suicidal and end up in mental hospitals.

Although Ashley did not die from her 30-foot fall in 2004, she was seriously injured when she landed next to the highway.

"This year, 1,500 to 1,600 people will kill themselves while they are patients in psychiatric hospitals," Simpson said in a telephone interview. "It's more dangerous to be a patient at a psychiatric hospital than it is to go to Iraq."

During admission, a Bridgeway employee noted the medications Ashley had and returned the prescribed drugs to her and told her to wait in the hospital lobby, the suit said. Ashley took the medications, walked out of the lobby, left the hospital and jumped from the overpass nearby. In the fall, she fractured lower leg bones, her sternum, two vertebrae, an ankle, a heel bone, and injured her right knee, the suit said.