Lawsuit accuses Summit County Jail of ignoring calls for help from inmate

Content Notice: This article is about suicide, suicide attempts and mental illness. People struggling with their mental health or suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or call the Summit County ADM Board 24/7 hotline at 330-434-9144.

The mother of a Stow man who died by suicide in Summit County jail and his estranged wife are suing the county and the jail’s mental health provider, claiming the man’s death was preventable after he begged for mental health treatment for months, but was ignored.

According to the lawsuit filed Sept. 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of the Eastern Division of Ohio in Cleveland, Patrick Butcher died by suicide in the prison on Oct. 12, 2020, “because correctional and health care staff prison mental health were deliberately indifferent to Patrick’s severe psychiatric needs, which is consistent with Summit County’s failure to properly train staff in suicide prevention.

The lawsuit was brought by Terry DeVos of Stow – Butcher’s mother and administrator of his estate – and Shelby Butcher of Lorain, Butcher’s ex-wife and mother of their child. He names Summit County as defendants; Summit Psychological Associates, which provides mental health services at the county jail; two correctional officers; and an employee and intern of inmate services provider Summit Psychological Associates.

Attorneys are not listed in Federal Court records for the defendants. Greta Johnson, the county’s director of communications, declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing ongoing litigation.

The pending legal action regarding Butcher’s death was discussed June 6 at a Summit County Council rules committee meeting. In June, the county approved payment of $75,000 to liability insurer Tokio Marine Houston Casualty Company for legal representation fees and services to investigate the expected litigation.

“We have received a request for $4 million from the estate of the deceased,” Deb Matz, the county’s director of law and risk management, said at the meeting. “Obviously, we’re not inclined to meet that demand with anything even close to that kind of settlement money.”

Patrick Butcher struggled with mental health before entering Summit County Jail

According to the lawsuit, Butcher began to struggle with his mental health after his wife gave birth to stillborn twins in January 2018. In November 2018, Butcher’s wife gave birth to a healthy baby girl, but Butcher was still struggling emotionally, with auditory hallucinations that led him to bang his head against the wall, according to the lawsuit.

On May 24, 2019, Butcher was hospitalized for a suicide attempt and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from the death of the twins. The lawsuit says Butcher began self-medicating by abusing benzodiazepines and alcohol, and his wife filed for divorce in March 2020.

Butcher was incarcerated in Summit County Jail that month and again in June 2020. The lawsuit says his mother and estranged wife thought his incarceration would help protect him from himself, predicting that jail “would help him detox and receive consistent treatment for his mental health issues, including the consistent administration of his prescribed medications.

The lawsuit outlines Butcher’s struggles in prison, including multiple demands on staff for his medication and other mental health treatment.

In a letter to his mother on June 18, 2020, Butcher described his increasingly suicidal thoughts and how easy it would be to act on them in his environment, according to the lawsuit. “I am more depressed than I have ever been,” he wrote, “and I cannot continue to walk alone. Nor can I ask for help here, as their response is to put on a ‘turtle suit’ and pack all your stuff.

The lawsuit says Butcher was no longer allowed to take a drug used to treat bipolar depression after a nurse said he spat it into a cup; his family maintains that he did not refuse the drug, but that he had gagged himself trying to take it and was denied the chance to try again.

In subsequent requests to prison staff, Butcher warned that stopping the drug “could lead to my death” and wrote “my brain is in the wrong place”.

The lawsuit says Butcher did not see a psychiatrist or doctor from July 17 to August 27. He was started on a new medication that was not enough to control his symptoms and asked to see a doctor at least seven times between September 1 and October 1. . ten

On September 30, 2020, Butcher, who had no criminal history, entered a plea deal, and his conviction for drug possession, breach of a protective order, and burglary was set for three weeks later.

According to the lawsuit, Butcher hoped to be sentenced to a drug rehabilitation program at the Summit County Community Correctional Facility, but feared a prison sentence.

Butcher committed suicide in his cell

On October 11, 2020, Butcher told several MPs he was suicidal and did not want to return to his cell, saying he was afraid his cellmate would beat him after he ‘reported’ the cellmate’s gang member. He was not, however, placed on suicide watch, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says Butcher returned to his cell and was attacked by his cellmate. Butcher and the cellmate said Butcher did not fight back, but deputies said he did.

Butcher did not see a psychiatrist after the incident — instead, he was seen by a Summit Psychological Associates intern.

Butcher was found dead in his cell on October 12, the same day as a hearing in which he was sentenced to five days in solitary confinement following the fight.

In a note found in his cell, Butcher wrote, “I also pleaded with sanity to see me because my bipolar is so bad but they didn’t help me.”

The plaintiffs list a host of suicide risk factors affecting Butcher – including previous attempts, self-harm, mental illness, financial issues, his divorce (finalized October 7) and the recent death of his grandmother.

The lawsuit accuses the county of failing to implement mental health-related recommendations from the Summit County Jail Advisory Board or providing deputies with suicide prevention training.

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The lawsuit also says Summit Psychological Associates failed to provide readily available and timely care to Butcher, as the agency was understaffed with psychiatrists at the prison.

The lawsuit includes allegations of wrongful death, negligence and violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution. The plaintiffs seek a jury trial and compensatory damages from Butcher’s estate.

County settles attempted suicide case in Summit County Jail

In a separate case, Summit County officials are paying a Tallmadge woman and her mother $135,000 as a settlement after filing a lawsuit saying the woman’s attempted suicide in the Summit County Jail resulted in was ignored by MPs and then covered up.

The lawsuit was filed in the same federal court in Cleveland in April 2020 against Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro, former Summit County Sheriff Steve Barry (who was sheriff at the time of the incident) and three deputies from Summit County Sheriff: Alycia Hawkins, Debra Weiland and Teresa Stark.

“The [county’s] at this point, the insurance company views it as a cost of defense,” Deb Matz, director of the county’s Department of Law and Risk Management, told county board members in August. “So if we settle it now, it will indeed be significantly cheaper than the cost of defending the case, when you don’t know what the outcome might be.”

Johnson, the county’s director of communications, declined to comment on the lawsuit or the settlement.

According to the lawsuit, the woman was taken to Summit County Jail as a remand prisoner on April 19, 2018, and placed on suicide watch.

Lawsuit says sheriff’s deputies ‘failed to follow proper protocol in neglecting to timely check on well-being of suicidal inmate’, calling him ‘disregard for serious medical need’ “.

The lawsuit says that on April 27, 2018, the woman attempted suicide but was discovered by deputies, who immediately covered up evidence of the attempt when they came to her aid and told a nurse that she could simulate a seizure.

The lawsuit says medical and custodial staff at the prison repeatedly asked deputies if the woman had attempted suicide, but they said no. When emergency medical services arrived to treat her, they treated the woman for a seizure.

“Due to the deputies’ conspiracy to cover up and then cover up the fact of the attempted suicide, [the woman] did not receive proper medical treatment until she arrived at the emergency room where hospital staff were informed that [the woman] attempted suicide and was not suffering from a seizure,” the lawsuit states.

Contact Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills at [email protected] and on Twitter @EmilyMills818.

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