By JAY STAPLETON
DAYTONA BEACH -- Two former Volusia County inmates are the first locals to sue the company that provides medical care for the Department of Corrections since it took over in 2005.
The lawsuit filed in Volusia County on June 27 claims the company, Prison Health Services, was negligent by not giving needed medications to a man and woman in separate incidents between February and March. The inmates were told it was policy to stop all medications for a month, according to the lawsuit.
"I do not believe anyone objects to trying to get someone off meds," said J. David Kerce, the attorney who filed the lawsuit. "But you cannot just cut them off like that, you have to step them down."
The lawsuit, which also claims a contract Prison Health Services has with the county was not followed, is the latest in a series of concerns raised about the company's treatment of those with mental illnesses, which local defense lawyers have called troubling.
A spokeswoman for Prison Health Services said this week she could not comment on the lawsuit.
Martha Harbin said from her Tallahassee office that Prison Health Services follows the mandates of the American Psychiatric Association. She said patients taking drugs for psychiatric problems need to be off medications for proper evaluation, but she's never seen that take a month.
Both inmates named in the suit had histories of mental health treatment. One had a court order to receive medication. But neither was given necessary medications they had received under doctors' care before being locked up, the lawsuit says.
"Despite the court order, delivery of medications and medical records, the medical staff and or contractors of PHS failed to administer psychotropic medications to the plaintiff," the complaint said of Christina Bailey.
The jail policy was to terminate all medications for 30 days, court records show. For a time, Bailey was placed in a medical lockdown.
And when the 35-year-old woman who'd been treated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety was moved from the county Correctional Facility to serve time in state prison for dealing drugs, her records and medications were not sent with her.
U.S. Veterans Affairs records provided to state corrections officials "were discarded in the trash," according to court records.
The other former county inmate named in the lawsuit against Prison Health Services, Kyle Gullo, 18, has a 14-year history of treatment for his mental illness.
Gullo was held at the Volusia County Branch Jail for 34 days after a May burglary arrest. The State Attorney's Office decided not to prosecute.
His mother repeatedly called the jail to tell them he needed medication, according to court records. In spite of reports that he was hallucinating for two days after his arrest, Gullo did not receive any medications during his stay, the lawsuit says.
A trial date has not been set.
There may be other lawsuits on the same issue coming.
Kerce said, "This case has potential for class-action status."
-- Staff Writer Lyda Longa contributed to this report.