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Nelson v. Wexford Healthcare Providers

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 21, 2019

KARNELL NELSON, #N91564, COREY EGNER, #S14263, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiffs Karnell Nelson and Corey Egner, inmates in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), bring this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged deprivations of their constitutional rights that occurred while they were incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”). Plaintiffs claim that inmates with mental health issues incarcerated at Shawnee are subjected to cruel and unusual conditions of confinement and are denied adequate mental health treatment. They seek injunctive relief and monetary damages. (Doc. 1).

         This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner Complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of a Complaint that is legally frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or requests money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The Complaint

          Plaintiffs make the following allegations in the Complaint: The conditions of confinement for inmates on crisis watch at Shawnee are unsanitary and unhealthy. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Inmates are placed in cells that are constantly lit, covered in human waste, and have soiled, old mattresses. Because the windows are broken, the temperature in the cells becomes unbearably hot or cold. Inmates on crisis watch are also deprived of their property and left without shoes to wear or hygiene products. Jeffry Dennison is the Chief Administrative Officer at Shawnee and is responsible for the operation and conditions of the facility. (Id. at 4-5).

         The mental health needs of inmates at Shawnee are not being properly met by Wexford Healthcare Providers. (Id. at 5). They are understaffed and it can take weeks to be seen by a mental health provider. When an inmate sees a provider, the meeting lasts under five minutes and there is no therapy. This is a violation of Plaintiffs' rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Wexford Healthcare Providers, Karen Smoot (the health care unit administrator/ADA coordinator), and Jeffry Dennison (the Chief Administrative Officer) are involved in the violation.

         The mental health providers have too much freedom in determining an inmate's level of mental health functioning. Inmates that have been designated as having a serious mental illness (“SMI”) are, without reason, no longer being designated as such, which can affect the level of treatment received. Plaintiff Egner was designated SMI from 2016-2018, but that changed in 2019 despite him experiencing the same mental health issues. (Id. at 5, 8). Plaintiff Nelson was designated SMI for many years, but was suddenly changed despite facing the same mental health issues. (Id. at 8). Because of the change in designation, Plaintiffs are not receiving the appropriate level of treatment and have no restrictions on placement in segregation or throughout the facility. The SMI designation is overseen by Mental Health Supervisor Justice and Smoot.

         The inadequate mental health treatment is an ongoing situation for Plaintiffs and many other inmates at Shawnee. Plaintiffs have been placed on crisis watch on a number of occasions. Director Baldwin is responsible for overseeing IDOC's operation. Wexford Health Care is responsible for the treatment of mentally ill inmates.

         At some point, Plaintiffs have been harassed by staff because of their mental health issues and level of functioning. (Id. at 9). Plaintiff Nelson has been harassed by Nurse Casey Lee-Rece, Ms. Smooch, Lt. Browning, and C/O Anderson. Plaintiff Egner has been harassed by C/O Bernard and other officers.

         Based on the allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to designate the following Counts:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim of unconstitutional conditions of confinement of inmates on crisis watch for mental health reasons.
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need by providing inadequate mental health treatment to inmates.
Count 3: American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) claim for failing to accommodate inmates with mental health needs by not providing regular appointments with mental healthcare professionals.
Count 4: Eighth Amendment claim against staff for harassing Plaintiffs because of their mental health and ...

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