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Pritchett v. Wallace

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

October 31, 2014

IAN WALLACE, et al., Defendants.


STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court defendants Kircher and Reese's motion for summary judgment (#62), filed March 25, 2014. Plaintiff has not responded to the motion, and the time for doing so has long passed.[1]

I. Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed. Plaintiff Eric Pritchett has been incarcerated at Southeast Correctional Center ("SECC") in Charleston, Missouri since October 16, 2012. Defendants Cynthia Reese and Dr. Nena Kircher are a licensed professional counselor and licensed psychologist, respectively. They are among more than twenty defendants originally named in the complaint, but they are the only two mental health care providers remaining as defendants. Their employer contracts with the State of Missouri to provide mental health services to incarcerated individuals at SECC.

Plaintiff alleges that the conditions of his confinement have caused him to suffer physically and mentally.

Plaintiff requested transfer to the Skilled Rehabilitation Unit ("SRU"), but his request was denied because his mental health score was "MH3, " and a score of "MH4" is required for transfer to the SRU. In addition, defendants Kircher and Reese's professional opinions were that plaintiff did not require transfer to the SRU for treatment. Furthermore, the SRU is a general population setting, and plaintiff had committed repeated code violations which prohibited him from being placed in such a setting.

Plaintiff alleges he was denied mental health services and that SECC is not equipped to treat his mental health conditions. Plaintiff made suicide declarations on eight different occasions between November 6, 2012 and September 11, 2013. Each time he was evaluated for whether he was in fact suicidal. If after evaluation an inmate is considered to be potentially suicidal, he is placed on suicide watch. If he is not determined to be suicidal, but there remains concern for the inmate for a mental health condition, they may be placed on close observation. Whether under suicide watch or on close observation, the inmate is monitored in a safe cell. When released from suicide watch, plaintiff would be placed back in administrative segregation where he was being held due to multiple conduct violations. Plaintiff went on a hunger strike in April 2013 because he wanted the Warden to dismiss a conduct violation he received for causing a riot.

With regard to plaintiff's mental health treatment, SECC has on-site a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed mental health nurses, licensed mental health professionals and full medical staff. Plaintiff was routinely seen by the psychiatrist and qualified mental health professional for evaluation, counseling, and treatment. Plaintiff has had contact with mental health services at SECC or other prisons since 2009. He was seen by a mental health counselor a number of times before he was transferred to SECC on October 16, 2012. Plaintiff submitted a Medical Service Request ("MSR") on October 18, 2012 requesting to see a doctor. He was seen by a qualified mental health professional on October 22, 2012. A psychiatrist attempted to meet with Mr. Pritchett on November 12, 2012, but plaintiff was uncooperative with him. Plaintiff was most often seen by counselor John Darin. Between October 4, 2012 and February 11, 2014, plaintiff was seen by a counselor, mental health nurse, psychologist or psychiatrist on ninety-one occasions. That number does not include the fact that the plaintiff was also seen on weekly rounds by mental health professionals as well. Dr. Kircher saw plaintiff on at least seven occasions between November 6, 2012 and January 14, 2013. Six of Dr. Kircher's visits were while plaintiff was on suicide watch. Plaintiff was seen by Ms. Reese on at least twenty occasions between November 9, 2012 and October 24, 2013. On January 4, 2013, plaintiff reported that he reported suicidal ideation attempting to achieve a cell move. On November 12, 2012, plaintiff stated that he reported suicidal ideations so that he could convince mental health staff to obtain his legal work for him. On March 26, 2013, Ms. Reese noted that plaintiff declares he is suicidal when he gets frustrated.

In additional to being seen on average more than six times per month by mental health staff, plaintiff is in the process of completing the mental health program for segregation called, "Taking a Chance on Change." That program is an in-cell handout/homework program that entails fifty-two weeks of lessons on topics including preparing for change, self-awareness/goal setting, identifying and changing mistaken beliefs, effective problem solving, effective communication, anger management, stress management and relapse prevention.

Plaintiff brought this 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 claim against a number of individuals employed at SECC. Plaintiff's claims against defendants Reese and Kircher are that they failed to transfer him to a State mental hospital and that he was denied mental health services at SECC, all in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

II. Legal Standard

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), a district court may grant a motion for summary judgment if all of the information before the court demonstrates that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The burden is on the moving party. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op. Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir.1988). After the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must do more than show that there is some doubt as to the facts. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the nonmoving party bears the burden of setting forth affirmative evidence and specific facts by affidavit and other evidence showing that there is a genuine dispute of a material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. "A dispute about a material fact is genuine' only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Herring v. Canada Life Assur. Co., 207 F.3d 1026, 1030 (8th Cir. 2000) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). A party resisting summary judgment has the burden to designate the specific facts that create a triable controversy. See Crossley v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 355 F.3d 1112, 1114 (8th Cir. 2004). Self-serving, conclusory statements without support are not sufficient to defeat summary judgment. Armour and Co., Inc. v. Inver Grove Heights, 2 F.3d 276, 279 (8th Cir. 1993).

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must review the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and give that party the benefit of any inferences that logically can be drawn from those facts. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587; Woods v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 409 F.3d 984, 990 (8th Cir. 2005). The court is required to resolve all conflicts of evidence in favor of the nonmoving party. Robert Johnson Grain Co. v. Chemical Interchange Co., 541 F.2d 207, 210 (8th Cir. 1976).

The movant's statement of facts are deemed admitted if not specifically controverted by the party opposing the ...

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