If you find our website useful, please consider sending us a contribution!!!

PCWG, 1114 Brandt Drive, Tallahassee FL 32308

Alabama Department of Corrections
Dec 10, 2016
Officials said inmates are never denied medical care or medication because of the cost
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The chief psychiatrist for Alabama prisons testified that inmates are screened for mental illness, given a treatment plan if they are ill and provided needed medication regardless of cost. Dr. Robert Hunter, medical director for MHM Alabama, took the witness stand for the third day today in a federal non-jury trial over the quality of mental health care in Alabama prisons. Inmates and their advocates claim in the class-action lawsuit that a failure to provide adequate mental health care violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The Department of Corrections disputes the allegations. Today was the fourth day of the trial in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson. The case, expected to last about eight weeks, is moving slower than expected, Thompson told the lawyers this morning. MHM Alabama, part of MHM Services, has provided mental health care in prisons under contract with the Department of Corrections since 2001. The inmates, represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, called MHM's Hunter as a witness. Today, lawyers defending DOC officials cross-examined Hunter. Hunter described how inmates are evaluated for mental health problems when they enter the prison system. He said inmates who are identified as mentally ill receive a treatment plan that can include one-on-one counseling, group counseling and medication. Hunter said medication is generally prescribed to inmates when a psychiatrist or nurse practitioner determines their ability to function is impaired. Hunter said inmates are never denied medication because of the cost. Bill Lunsford, a lawyer with Maynard Cooper & Gale who is defending DOC officials, said Hunter's testimony countered the plaintiffs' claims that cost-cutting is a factor in care. "What Dr. Hunter has pointed out is that cost is really not a consideration when it comes to mental health care," Lunsford said. "That when they decide, for example, which patients receive which medications, that contrary to what's been publicized, it's just simply not true that cost is being taken into consideration." The lawsuit alleges that MHM's staff is too small and lacks the expertise to provide sufficient care, among other claims. SPLC attorney Maria Morris said some of the documented interactions between mental health staff and inmates might be more for the purpose of "checking boxes" than substantive treatment. Morris said a shortage of security staff, which DOC acknowledges, is a factor in what she said is substandard care. For example, she said group counseling opportunities are curtailed. "We'll be putting on evidence of places where group counseling, to the extent that it's scheduled at all, which is very limited, is cancelled because there's no custody officer available to provide security," Morris said. The plaintiffs had called two inmates as witnesses on Monday. After Hunter's testimony this afternoon, they called another inmate to testify. That inmate is expected to return to the stand on Friday morning.

December 1, 2009 Huntsville Times
State prison officials today released a 795-page report showing Farron Barksdale, who killed two police officers, died from hypothermia after being heavily medicated with anti-psychotic drugs. Barksdale, 32, of Athens, sentenced to life without parole after pleading guilty to capital murder in the shooting deaths of two Athens police officers, died Aug. 20, 2007, after he was found unconscious in his prison cell. After he was rushed to a Montgomery hospital, it was discovered he had several large, fresh-looking, bruises around his waist, arms, legs, elbows and knees. But Sarah Geraghty, senior attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, said questions still remain about how Barksdale received such extensive bruising. The report said Barksdale was given several different drugs that could cause bruising. And they noted the special seat belts used to transport Barksdale from the Limestone County Jail to the Kilby Correctional Facility could also have been responsible for some of the bruises. When a private ambulance company was summoned to take Barkdale to the hospital after he collapsed, according to the report, paramedic Angela Anderson said she "found patient lying on treatment table by himself with distressed respirations, unresponsive; no medical personnel in room; saw bruises on his body on abdominal and pelvic area; noted they were unusual for size and location . . . "Patient had no oxygen therapy being (administered and) there was no medical personnel in the room (with) the patient the entire time while on scene only DOC personnel. Patient had several bruises throughout body major-sized bruises noted anterior on lower abdomen/pelvic area measuring in comparison to a salad plate covering most of the area from hip joint area to umbilicus. "Color of bruises indicate newly sustained. Patient also had bruising to both forearms posterior area in same color as ones noted to abdomen/pelvic area." In addition, Heath Bruner, an EMT, was quoted in the report as noting "massive" bruising on both sides of pelvis. He also noted there were no nurses present in the room with Barksdale at Kilby. Barksdale's mother, Mary, earlier this year won $750,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit against former Kilby Warden Arnold Holt, Dr. Joseph McGinn of MHM Correctional Services in Vienna, Va., and Dr. Arnold Holt of Prison Health Services of Brentwood, Tenn. Ken Williams, general counsel for the Corrections Department, said Tuesday that McGinn was responsible for prescribing the drugs to Barksdale and leaving him in an unairconditioned cell rather than transferring him to an air-conditioned mental health unit.

September 24, 2009 Huntsville Times
The mother of an inmate who died a few days after entering a state prison was awarded $750,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit against prison officials and a mental health provider. The money was awarded to Mary Barksdale, the mother of Farron Barksdale, 32, of Athens who died Aug. 20, 2007, after he was found unconscious in his Kilby Prison cell. "We reached what we believed to be a fair settlement in light of what we knew of the troubling circumstances surrounding Mr. Barksdale's demise while in state custody," Sarah Geraghty, senior attorney for the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, said Wednesday. "Some facts surrounding the death, however, remain a mystery to this day due to the department's policy against releasing records on deaths in custody." Jake Watson, a Huntsville attorney who also represented Mary Barksdale, said Wednesday, "In light of all the circumstances, I think that was the best settlement." The state Department of Corrections was not a defendant in the case. According to the settlement agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, former Kilby Warden Arnold Holt was ordered to pay $300,000 to the settlement, Dr. Joseph McGinn of MHM Correctional Services in Vienna, Va., was to contribute $370,000, and Dr. Arnold Holt of Prison Health Services of Brentwood, Tenn., was to pay $80,000. MHM provides mental health services for the Department of Corrections. The suit alleged that Barksdale, who suffered from schizophrenia, died because of "the deliberate indifference, medical neglect and negligence" of the prison staff.

September 23, 2009 Huntsville Times
A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the mother of an inmate who died just 12 days after entering prison has been settled with the state Department of Corrections, her lawyers said Tuesday. Though the terms were not disclosed, the settlement was also confirmed by state prison Commissioner Richard Allen. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Montgomery on behalf of Mary Barksdale, the mother of Farron Barksdale, 32, of Athens, who died Aug. 20, 2007, after he was found unconscious in his Kilby Prison cell. Barksdale, who pleaded guilty to capital murder in the shooting death of two Athens police officers, had been transferred to the prison just three days earlier to begin serving a sentence of life without parole. Mary Barksdale, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, was represented by Sarah Geraghty, an attorney for the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, and Huntsville attorney Jake Watson. Geraghty and Watson confirmed that Mary Barksdale was awarded a cash settlement, but they would not disclose the amount. The defendants in the suit were former Kilby Warden Arnold Hold, Drs. Michael Robbins and Joseph McGinn, two unnamed correctional officers, an unnamed medical worker and Vienna, Va., based MHM Correctional Services. MHM provides mental health services for the Department of Corrections. The suit alleged that Barksdale, who suffered from schizophrenia, died because of "the deliberate indifference, medical neglect and negligence" of the prison staff. "Mr. Barksdale was medicated with an unusually large dose of psychotropic medications that made his body unable to withstand high temperatures, confined to an isolation cell with a medically dangerous degree of heat and left there without adequate monitoring," the complaint said. "He fell into a coma and died." The complaint said Barksdale was not placed in Kilby's mental health unit, which is air-conditioned. On the day he was found unresponsive in his cell, the temperature in Montgomery was 106 degrees. Kilby is located just east of Montgomery. On that day, the complaint said, correctional officers found Barksdale in a coma, "snoring and moaning," with a temperature of 103.1 degrees. He was taken to the hospital but never regained consciousness after eight days. An autopsy said he died of pneumonia and complications from hypothermia and a blood-clotting problem, and that bruises on his upper body and hip did not contribute to his death. A state prison inmate later wrote in an Oct. 24, 2008, letter to Montgomery County Circuit Judge Eugene Reese that Barksdale was severely beaten by four prison guards. Allen asked the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Corrections' Department of Investigations and Intelligence to reopen the investigation into Barksdale's death, but the results of that probe have never been released. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Friday that the Department of Corrections must comply with the state's Open Records law and make records available on crimes committed within prisons. The Southern Center for Human Rights had sued over that issue. Despite the high court's 5-0 ruling, Allen said Friday state attorneys may ask for a rehearing.

Florida Department of Corrections, Tallahassee, Florida
July 28, 2009 Miami Herald
A state hearing officer has ruled in favor of the Department of Corrections in a controversy involving an $80-million contract to provide mental health to South Florida inmates. Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Hood's 39-page decision concluded that the losing bidder, MHM Correctional Services, failed to prove that the prison system violated the law in awarding a five-year-contract to a rival, Correctional Medical Services. The decision was a setback to MHM and its legal team at Foley & Lardner, led by Chris Kise, a former legal advisor to Gov. Charlie Crist. "I am saddened, as costs will go up and quality of care will go down, but not entirely surprised by the order as the judge does not appear to get it," Kise said in an e-mail message to The News Service of Florida. Kise's administrative challenge included explosive allegations that prison officials negotiated in secret with CMS in violation of the public records laws that his ex-boss, Crist, has championed as governor. "MHM has not met its burden of persuasion in this case," Judge Hood wrote. In addition, she concluded, MHM failed to prove that its proposal met the state's criteria for financial viability (The prison system had rejected MHM's proposal on financial grounds).

June 26, 2009 St Petersburg Times
An ''appalled'' state judge said Thursday that Florida's prison system ''blatantly violated the public trust'' by secretly negotiating with a new firm to provide for inmates' mental health. Leon County Circuit Judge Frank Sheffield said the actions of the Department of Corrections in its secret dealings with Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis were ``at best, offensive, and at worst, illegal.'' But the judge denied the request by MHM Correctional Services for a temporary injunction. MHM wanted to block the award of a five-year contract to CMS through a 120-day purchase order that starts July 1. The judge said MHM still has legal remedies because it has a bid protest pending before a state hearing officer. He added that the public interest would not be served by an injunction because MHM's contract with the prison system expires June 30. To prevent the state from doing business with CMS ''would cause confusion, disorder and produce public injury that outweighs the individual right to the relief sought,'' the judge wrote in a seven-page order. Last February, the state received four proposals for mental health services for 18,000 inmates in the region from Homestead to Fort Pierce. Many of those inmates have serious mental disorders and receive psychotropic drugs. The prison system determined that all four companies failed to meet its criteria, then began secret negotiations with CMS, even though its offer was $5 million higher than MHM's, the judge wrote. Sheffield was particularly critical of a decision by the state to back-date an official document by 13 days that set the CMS purchase order in motion, and then 'engaging in an old-fashioned shell game of calling a short-term contract with the same company as is currently involved in a bid dispute a `purchase order.' '' MHM attorney Chris Kise, a former legal advisor to Gov. Charlie Crist, said: `The people lost today due to the worst abuse of power imaginable. The department engaged in secret negotiations, blatant violations of the public trust and unconscionable practices, then hid behind the very laws designed to protect the people.''

June 22, 2009 News Service of Florida
A high-stakes battle over multi-million dollar contracts with the Department of Corrections took an ugly turn on Monday. Lawyers representing MHM Correctional Services Inc. alleged in a court filing that a high-ranking DOC official may have been negotiating to get a job for a friend from Correctional Medical Services at the same time he recommended that the agency hire CMS. Ken Fields, a spokesman for CMS, said the allegation was simply a ploy intended to get media coverage. “This latest allegation is nothing more than a desperate PR stunt that is completely baseless," said Fields in an e-mail. CMS was chosen back in April to provide mental health services to South Florida prison inmates. But current vendor MHM has contested the bid, saying the department broke contracting and public records laws by negotiating with CMS in secret before announcing the St. Louis based company had won a contract worth more than $80 million over the next five years. MHM has also filed a separate lawsuit against the Department of Corrections after finding out that the agency planned to bring on CMS on July 1 when the current contract with MHM expires. Leon County Circuit Judge Frank Sheffield is expected to rule this week on whether to block the $6 million four-month purchase order the department approved in late May. Chris Kise, an attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP, filed a motion in circuit court on Monday that suggests that one reason CMS won the 4-month contract is because Dr. Sandeep Rahangdale, deputy secretary for health services, was trying to land a job for a friend with CMS. Kise attached e-mails that show that Rahangdale asked CMS officials to send information to his personal e-mail account about salary range and requirements for a position. He states “I think I have the perfect fit for you and the state" in the e-mail. A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections would not answer the allegation about Rahangdale, who makes $172,500 in his job with the agency. Rahangdale has been deputy secretary since Jan. 31, 2008. But Fields, the spokesman for CMS, said that Kise and his legal team have been in possession of the Rahangdale e-mail for weeks. "Until now and because they seek to avoid legal challenge, they have never raised this false allegation in any hearing related to this injunction or in their bid protest,’’ said Fields. “Instead they have chosen to wait until the hearings are concluded and to make the assertion in the media."

June 18, 2009 St Petersburg Times
A state judge is ordering two prison officials to testify today on their role in a disputed decision to switch vendors for mental health care to inmates in South Florida. "I direct that they appear," Leon County Circuit Judge Frank Sheffield said at a hearing Thursday. The judge ordered the two employees, Millie Seay and Jimmy Smith, to testify in a lawsuit brought by a company that has been fired by the Department of Corrections. The firm, MHM Correctional Services of Virginia, is seeking to block the state from replacing it with Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis, at what MHM says is $5 million more. The lawsuit sheds light on the intense competition among firms to secure lucrative contracts with agencies in Gov. Charlie Crist's administration. As the judge noted Thursday, "There's a lot of money at stake, and we have time frames imposed of July 1." MHM attorney Christopher Kise accused the prison system of flagrant violations of state purchasing and open meeting laws, "a rigging of the process" and a waste of taxpayers' money in switching vendors. He argued that MHM's lawsuit should stay, or prevent, the state from hiring CMS on July 1 for a 120-day period under a special purchase order while the vendor makes the transition as mental health provider. Attorneys for CMS, which was allowed to intervene in the lawsuit Thursday, told the judge a fast decision is needed because the firm needs to start its work. CMS attorney Peter Antonacci called the 120-day transition period a contractual "patch" not subject to the state's purchasing laws. Seay is director of administration for the Department of Corrections, and Smith is assistant program administrator for health services.

June 11, 2009 Miami Herald
A judge in Tallahassee ruled Wednesday that the Florida Department of Corrections improperly withheld public records from a vendor that filed a lawsuit after being ousted from a mental healthcare contract. The ruling is a victory for MHM Correctional Services, which wants to extend its 2 ˝-year contract to provide services to more than 15,000 inmates in a dozen South Florida prisons. But it is a defeat for Attorney General Bill McCollum, whose office asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit and argued that the Sunshine Law does not apply to purchasing committees, only boards and commissions. The DOC wants to replace MHM with Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis, even though that company would charge $5.5 million more for the same service over five years. MHM sued to stop the deal and argued that the state violated the Sunshine Law by omitting some e-mails related to the case. ''The court has conducted an in-camera inspection of the document containing the e-mail stream and has determined that it is not exempt under the provisions of Chapter 119,'' Circuit Judge Kevin Davey wrote Wednesday. "It does not appear that any of the communications in the stream were made in contemplation of litigation, which is required for the exemption.'' The bid protest is scheduled before a state hearing officer on Friday.

June 1, 2009 St Petersburg Times
A vendor on the verge of losing a contract to provide mental health services to 15,000 South Florida prison inmates is fighting back. Last week, MHM Correctional Services filed a lawsuit accusing the Department of Corrections of violating the Sunshine Law by holding unadvertised meetings to negotiate a more expensive multi-year contract with another vendor, Correctional Medical Services (CMS). Now MHM wants a Leon County judge to prevent the agency from going forward. In court papers, MHM's attorney says one of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil's top aides, Director of Administrator Millie Seay, refused to sign an exception document that allowed DOC to issue an interim purchase order until a formal contract can be executed -- a very big red flag from MHM's viewpoint. Quoting a May 22 email from DOC's procurement chief Robert Staney to his staff, the motion for injunction states: "Millie Seay is reluctant to sign the waiver at this time." "This fact alone should have stopped the procurement process," the motion states. On a related front, MHM has enlisted the lobbying firm of Smith & Ballard, which has entree to the highest levels of the governor's office. At the center of this contract fight is MHM's attorney, Chris Kise of Foley & Lardner's Tallahassee office, who served as counselor to Gov. Charlie Crist in the first year of his term and was a top adviser to Crist as attorney general.

May 27, 2009 St Petersburg Times
Gov. Charlie Crist has made it a priority to run the "most open and transparent" administration in state history. But a former adviser to Crist is suing the state, claiming the Department of Corrections broke the Sunshine Law by mishandling a contract to provide mental health services to inmates. Attorney Chris Kise of Foley & Lardner, who served as a counselor and climate change advisor to Crist, filed the suit in state court in Tallahassee Tuesday on behalf of MHM Correctional Services, a Virginia firm that pitched a proposal to provide mental health care in the agency's South Florida Region IV prisons. Kise's suit alleges that he obtained public records showing that agency staffers began "secret negotiations" with a competing vendor, Correctional Medical Services (CMS), almost two weeks before competing vendors learned that their proposals were rejected. Kise also said the deal the state negotiated with CMS would cost taxpayers $5.5-million more than MHM's proposal. Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil said he was confident the agency would prevail. We are fully confident that we didn't do anything that would be a problem to the state," he said. "I think the facts will bear that out to be not true." By law, McNeil said, he can't discuss the details of a contract that is "still in the throes of procurement."

MHM Correctional Services
January 14, 2011 News Observer
Three out-of-state companies are jockeying for a potentially lucrative state contract to house and care for people with mental illness accused of crimes that include murder. Facing massive budget cuts, the state Department of Health and Human Services last month issued a "request for information" seeking private firms interested in operating a facility for about 90 forensic patients. Some of those patients are housed at Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, which is set to close. The patients include those facing charges or found not guilty by reason of insanity for offenses ranging from first-degree murder to misdemeanor trespassing. Staff members at Dix also provide the psychiatric evaluations that help determine whether an accused person exhibiting signs of mental illness is competent to stand trial, a responsibility that could now be entrusted to a private contractor. District attorneys and disability advocates have expressed serious reservations about the plan, citing the sensitivity of the job and the state's checkered history of privatizations with mental health care and prisons. A DHHS spokeswoman this week disclosed the names of three firms that have filed proposals: The GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla.; MHM Services of Vienna, Va., and Liberty Healthcare of Bala Cynwyd, Pa. Records show that all three companies have hired well-known Raleigh-based lobbyists to help them get the contract, which is potentially worth millions of dollars: ♦Since 2009, GEO has been represented by Franklin Freeman at McGuireWoods. Freeman previously served as a secretary of correction, an associate justice on the N.C. Supreme Court and senior staffer to Govs. Jim Hunt and Mike Easley. ♦MHM Services hired lobbyist Mark Beason in 2008. Beason, along with his father Don Beason, were fined for lobbying violations last year. Once considered among the state's most powerful lobbyists, Don Beason left the profession because of his entanglements with disgraced House Speaker Jim Black, who pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. ♦Liberty Healthcare hired George M. Teague, a law partner at Nelson Mullins and longtime lobbyist for insurance companies and bankers. The News & Observer reported in May that Lanier Cansler, the DHHS secretary who was a lobbyist, had been meeting with lobbyists for at least three companies interested in taking over chunks of the state's mental health system, including the care of those in the forensic unit.

State Correctional Institution, Dallas, Dallas, Pennsylvania
February 25, 2010 Times Leader
The parents of a convicted murderer who committed suicide at the state Correctional Institution at Dallas have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against prison officials, 10 guards, two companies that provide prison health services and state Department of Corrections officials. Among the allegations in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Robert and Phyllis Bullock, of Dallas, is that corrections officers taunted their son, Matthew Lee Bullock, provided the means to commit suicide – a bed sheet he used to hang himself – and encouraged him to do so. A Luzerne County jury found Bullock guilty of third-degree murder but mentally ill in the strangulation death of 33-year-old Lisa Hargrave, who was 22 weeks pregnant, in the couple’s Wilkes-Barre apartment on Jan. 1, 2003. The jury also found Bullock guilty of involuntary manslaughter but mentally ill for the death of the fetus. The lawsuit, filed in Luzerne County Court and transferred on Wednesday to U.S. District Court, details Bullock’s extensive mental health history, including 11 psychiatric disorders and more than 20 documented suicide attempts in the 10 years prior to his incarceration. Despite a court order that he was to be housed at a secure mental health facility for the needed treatment period, Bullock was confined in various state prisons, where he attempted suicide in May 2007, January 2008 and May 2009, the suit states. Bullock told staff at SCI Dallas on July 31, 2009 that he was “stressed” because his victim was related to a prison employee and that he was hearing voices, and he also cut the inside of his wrists on that date, the suit states. Despite all that, Bullock’s psychiatric medication was decreased and he was placed in a Restricted Housing Unit (RHU), which is not designed for confinement and treatment of the mentally ill, the suit states.