Coming nearly on the heels of reports questioning safety at West Virginia's two state-owned psychiatric hospitals, the suspicious death of a patient at one should raise eyebrows among legislators.
Conditions at the William R. Sharpe Hospital in Weston and the Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in Huntington were questioned last year. Overcrowding and the staffs' ability to keep patients safe were cited.
Last week State Police confirmed they are investigating a death at the Huntington facility. Matthew Allen Pike, 29, of Huntington, died at the hospital after a confrontation with two staff members. Pike's mother has said she holds the staff responsible for her son's death.
Pike, who suffered from autism, was in the hospital under a court order related to arson charges. His mother said he had the mental capacity of a 12-year-old.
Pike's uncle told a reporter that after his nephew died, he received calls from people reporting cases of abuse at Mitchell-Bateman.
Work at any psychiatric hospital is difficult and demanding, for obvious reasons. But it is especially so at the two state-run facilities, where forensic patients - those involved in or charged with crimes - are among those handled.
We expect State Police investigators will conduct a thorough review of Pike's death, as they always do when suspicious circumstances are involved in fatalities. As yet, no one in authority has accused hospital staff members of wrongdoing.
But whether they behaved appropriately or not, a man died in their care.
Again, especially in view of concerns about the two hospitals last year, that should worry West Virginia legislators. They should review the State Police investigative report carefully and, if appropriate, order a more comprehensive look at both the Mitchell-Bateman and Sharpe hospitals.