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Dunn v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 14, 2018

EULISTA DUNN, Plaintiff
v.
FRANK BISHOP, et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PETER J. MESSITTE DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In response to this civil rights complaint, Defendants Warden Frank Bishop, CO II Jamey L. Durst, CO II Dustin L. Gursky, and CO II Dean W, Rounds, Correctional Officers at the North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI) filed a Motion to Dismiss or in the alternative for Summary Judgment. ECF 13. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion.[1] ECF 18. The Court finds no need for a hearing. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, shall be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiffs Claims

         Plaintiff Eulista B. Dunn, an inmate committed to the custody of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Sendees (DPSCS) and currently confined in the North Branch Correctional Institution, (ECF 5 at p. 2)[2] alleges that while he was incarcerated at NBCI, Defendants denied him access to mental health care.

         Specifically, Plaintiff alleges he has been diagnosed with mental health issues since he was a child. ECF 5 at p. 4. Plaintiff states that he was placed on disciplinary segregation in 2009 and remained there on January 5, 2015, when during the night he began to hear his deceased father's voice in his head but it sounded as though it was in his cell. Id. Plaintiff indicates that prior to hearing the voice he had been thinking, visualizing, and planning ways to commit suicide. Id. Leading into the morning of January 6, 2016, his father's voice began to tell him that it was time for him to come join him. Id. Plaintiff claims that he dealt with the hallucinations for over a week and that on three different occasions his neighbor called over to ask who he was talking to. ECF 5 at p. 8.

         Plaintiff was scheduled to see the psychologist on January 6, 2016. Sergeant Puffenberger escorted Plaintiff to see Dr. Siracusano. ECF 5 at p. 5. Plaintiff explained to Dr. Siracusano that the medications he was taking were not effective to treat his mental health issues. Id. Plaintiff states that he was then asked to step out of the room because "staff wanted to have a word with him." Id. Plaintiff states that Defendant Rounds stepped into the room and lied to Dr. Siracusano telling him that Plaintiff was selling his psychiatric medication on the tier. Id. Plaintiff states that Rounds made the allegation without any evidence as he had never bene charged with a disciplinary infraction. Id. When Plaintiff stepped back into the room, Dr. Siracusano advised him that he was not going to re-assess Plaintiffs medication but that he would change the prescription to "crush and float" a procedure Plaintiff describes as smashing medication in a cup and then putting water on top to prevent the inmate from hoarding medication. Id. at p. 6.

         Plaintiff states that when he attempted to further advise Dr. Siracusano of the voices, Rounds grabbed him by his arm and dragged him out of the room and back to his cell. Id. at p. 6. Plaintiff states that during lunch, he refused to eat and held his feed up slot open in order to get medical attention. Id. Plaintiff explains that this is a method used in the disciplinary housing unit by inmates to get attention as if an inmate prevents the slot from closing all operations are to stop, a security "bubble" placed on the inmate's door, and a supervisor notified. Id. If the supervisor cannot convince the inmate to close the slot, an extraction team is assembled and the inmate forcibly removed from the cell. Id.

         Sgt. Puffenberger came to Plaintiffs cell and he advised her that he needed to see psychology staff immediately. ECF 1 at p. 6. Puffenberger told Plaintiff that she would speak with "J. Simmon." When Puffenberger returned, she told Plaintiff that he would be scheduled for an emergency re-evaluation on January 12, 2016 (which was later rescheduled for January 13, 2016). At this, Plaintiff agreed to shut his slot. Id. at p. 6.

         Rounds appeared at Plaintiffs cell door on January 13, 2016, and told Plaintiff that Dr. Siracusano refused to see him and that if Plaintiff did not like the medication he was prescribed, Siracusano would remove him from all medication. ECF 5 at p. 7. Plaintiff told Rounds he was suicidal and needed to see psychology staff, but "Rounds smirked and walked away." Id. At 11:00 a.m. that day, Plaintiff sent a letter to psychology associate Beitzel advising her of the situation. Id.

         The following morning Defendant Mallow came to Plaintiffs cell during count. ECF 5 at p. 7. Plaintiff advised Mallow that he was suicidal and needed to be placed on "observation/precautions." Id. During lunch, Plaintiff again held his feed up slot open in an attempt to receive treatment. Id. Defendant Durst came to Plaintiffs door and attempted to bribe him by offering to change his cell assignment, if Plaintiff closed the slot, but Plaintiff refused.

         Mallow returned to Plaintiffs door advising Plaintiff that he had mail from Beitzel but he would only give it to Plaintiff if agreed to close the slot. Plaintiff declined. ECF 5 at p. 7. Despite not being seen by psychology staff, Plaintiff allowed the slot to be closed at dinner time. ECF 5 at pp. 7-8. "[A]t that time, he decided to follow his father's advice and recommendation and swallowed about thirty (30) #20 Baclophin Muscle Relaxers with the sole intentions [sic] of committing suicide." ECF 5 at pp. 7-8.

         B. Defendants' Response

         Defendants provide verified business records which include Plaintiffs medical records along with their declarations.

         Frank Bishop, Warden of NBCI, avers that mental health and medical health services are provided to NBCI inmates by private health care contractors. ECF 13-3 at ¶ 2 (Bishop Decl.). Neither Bishop, nor any member of NBCI's staff have personal involvement in the provision of medical or psychiatric care to any NBCI inmate. Id. Nor do Bishop or any NBCI staff have the authority to make decisions concerning an inmate's medical or psychiatric care or the authority to order medical providers to perform any particular procedure or render any particular treatment. Id. Inmates' health appointment dates and times are set by the private contractors. An inmate can fill out a sick call slip to seek evaluation and treatment. The slips are collected and reviewed by the contractors and appointment dates and time are determined by the contractor after they review the sick call requests. ECF 13-3 at ¶ 3. In responding to complaints regarding the provision of health care, Bishop states that he and his staff rely on the reports, assessments and judgments of the health care contractors. ECF 13-3 at ¶ 4. Bishop denies interfering, hindering or delaying Plaintiff's access to medical or mental health care or treatment and is unaware of any situation where a DPSCS/NBCI employee acted in such a manner. ECF 13-3 at ¶5. Bishop denies having any prior notice or indication that Plaintiff had any suicidal intent or ideation prior to his reported suicide attempt on January 14, 2016. ECF 13-3 at ¶ 6.

         Officers Dean Rounds, Sr., Jamey Durst, Dustin Gursky, and Mallow each aver that they have no independent recollection of any conversation with Plaintiff in January of 2016 where he expressed he was suicidal. ECF 13-4 at ¶ 3. (Rounds Decl.); ECF 13-5 at ¶ 3 (Durst Decl.); ECF 13-6 at ¶ 3 (Gursky Decl.); ECF 13-10 (Mallow Decl.) Rounds, Durst, Gursky, and Mallow each aver that if Plaintiff had expressed suicidal ideation they would have reported the situation so that if warranted he could be placed under suicide precautions. Id. Rounds, Durst, Gursky, and Mallow each deny interfering with, hindering, or delaying medical or psychological treatment to Plaintiff. ECF 13-4 at ¶ 4; ECF 13-5 at ¶ 5; ECF 13-6 at ¶ 5; ECF 13-10 at ¶4. Rounds, Durst, Gursky, and Mallow further aver that they had no personal involvement in the provision of medical or psychological care to Plaintiff and had no authority to order health care staff to prescribe any particular medication or perform or render any particular procedure or treatment. ECF 13-4 at ¶ 5; ECF 13-5 at¶6; ECF 13-6 at¶ 6; ECF 13-10 at¶5. • Durst and Gursky explain that Plaintiff had a history of holding open his food slot to disrupt the tier or to get attention. ECF 13-5 at ¶ 4; ECF 13-6 at ¶ 4. They explain that if they offered to move Plaintiff to another tier, it would have been done as an incentive for him to obey the rules and close his flood slot. ECF 13-5 at ¶ 4; ECF 13-6 at ¶ 4.

         Lauren Beitzel, a Mental Health Professional Counselor at NBCI, started working the segregation tier that housed Plaintiff in August of 2015. ECF 13-8 at ¶¶ 1 & 3. Beitzel provided psychological services to Plaintiff during the months before, during, and after his reported suicide attempt in January of 2016. Id. at ¶3. To her recollection, Beitzel denies that Plaintiff ever reported to her that he had any present suicidal ideation.[3] Id. at ¶ 4.

         According to Beitzel, Plaintiff "has a history of acting out when he hears something he does not like or does not receive something for which he asks." ECF 13-8 at ¶ 5. As examples, Beitzel indicates that Plaintiff protests by holding open his food slot and refusing to be handcuffed for escort after group therapy sessions. Id.; see also ECF 13-9 at p. 18 (on 12/1/15 Plaintiff held feed slot, was disruptive on the tier, and not escorted to group therapy); p. 55 (on 1/12/16 Plaintiff refused to be handcuffed after group therapy).

         Beitzel indicates that she spoke with Plaintiff on January 6, 2016, before his appointment with Dr. Siracusano. ECF 13-8 at ¶ 6. Based on her knowledge of Plaintiff, Beitzel advised Plaintiff "that he should refrain from selling or giving his medications to other inmates, from hoarding his medications, and from losing his composure when he hears information that he does not like, particularly in anticipation that Dr. Siracusano might not grant Mr. Dunn's request for medication changes." ECF 13-8 at ¶ 6; see also ECF 13-9 at p. 39 (Onsite Consult note dated 1/8/16), Beitzel avers that Plaintiff did not express any suicidal ideation or appear to be in distress. ECF 13-8 at ¶ 6. Beitzel affirms that the medical records attached to her declaration (ECF 13-8 at p. 3) accurately reflect the substance and conclusions about her discussions with Plaintiff on January 6, 2016. Id. at ¶ 7.

         Dr. Vincent Siracusano is a psychiatrist employed by Mental Health Management, Inc., who provides psychiatric care to inmates housed at NBCI. ECF 13-7 at ¶ 1 (Siracusano Decl.) Siracusano sees patients on a periodic basis. Id. at ¶ 3. Those visits are noted in the patient's record as "psych follow up" visits. Id. Siracusano explains that if an inmate feels the need to be seen sooner than their regularly scheduled follow up visit, they may submit a sick call slip. Id. at ¶ 4; see also ECF 13-8 at ¶ 10 (Beitzel Decl). When an inmate is seen in response to a sick call slip or on an urgent or emergency basis, it is reflected in the medical notes. ECF 13-7 at ¶ 5; ECF 13-8 at ¶ 10.

         Siracusano saw Plaintiff on January 6, 2016, for a regularly scheduled follow up. ECF 13-7 at ¶ 6; see also ECF 13-9 at pp. 25-34 (1/6/2016 Medication Management note). Plaintiff did not express any suicidal ideation at that time, nor did he express any urgent conditions or concerns. Id. Siracusano further avers that Plaintiffs medical records indicated a recent past history of giving or selling drugs to other inmates, hoarding drugs, and possessing drugs that were not prescribed to him.[4] Id. at ¶ 8. Accordingly, Siracusano ordered that Plaintiffs medications be administered on a crush and float basis in order to prevent his abuse of medications. Id. at ¶ 9. Siracusano avers that "[n]o correctional officer interfered with my decision concerning the psychiatric treatment of [Plaintiff.]" (id. at ¶ 10) and that his decision to continue Plaintiff on his then prescribed medication was solely made on the basis of sound psychiatric medicine. Id. at ¶ 7.

         After his meeting with Siracusano, Plaintiff engaged in a hunger strike[5] which Beitzel explains was a protest against Siracusano's ordering his medication to be provided as crush and float to prevent his hoarding or sharing the medication. ECF 13-8 at ¶ 7; ECF 13-8 at p. 3; ECF 13-9 at pp. 35. 37, 39. Beitzel also explains based on her training and experience, familiarity with Plaintiff, and the statements he made in the complaint, that to a reasonable degree of certainty in the field of psychology, Plaintiffs holding of his food slot on January 13 and 14, 2016, was not for seeking precautions against suicide but in order to create a disruption in protest of Siracusano's. ordering his medication be provided on a crush and float basis. ECF 13-8 at ¶ 8.

         Beitzel also indicates that she received a letter from Plaintiff on January 13, 2016, complaining about Siracusano and some of his property. ECF 13-8, ¶ 9; ECF 13-8 at p. 4 (Plaintiffs 1/13/16 letter to Beitzel). Beitzel avers that in her opinion, based on her experience with Plaintiff, if he was having any suicidal ideation or felt the need ...


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