Mental Health





Canupp, et al. v. Liberty Behavioral Health Corp. (M.D. Fla., J. Covington 2004). This class action challenged the lack of an effective treatment regimen and adequate mental health care at the Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC). Approximately 450 men were detained at FCCC, with more arriving every day under Florida’s Jimmy Ryce Act. The State’s failure to provide constitutionally adequate treatment made their confinement essentially a life sentence. The court certified the case as a class and created two sub-classes. A mediated settlement was reached. The Department of Children and Families did not agree to an enforceable settlement but promised the following in a written settlement plan: improvements to the oversight and staffing of the inpatient mental health unit, the creation of policies addressing the screening and referral process for the use of anti-androgens, comprehensive discharge planning for Phase IV residents, improvements to the special track of treatment, and improved training for clinical staff and TST housing staff. The settlement plan explained what the Defendant would do to address each issue, when the improvements would happen, and who was responsible for making sure the improvements occurred. Our co-Counsel was Florida Institutional Legal Services.

Armstead v. Coler (M.D. Fla.1996). This class action was originally brought by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid challenging the State of Florida's practice of housing persons with developmental disabilities at Northeast Florida State Hospital at Macclenny, a facility for persons with mental illness. We entered our appearance in 1996 to monitor the implementation of the Compliance Plan, which includes provisions for the care and treatment of class members at NEFSH, appropriate discharges from NEFSH, and appropriate community services after discharge.

Bridges v. Sandstrom (S.D. Fla., J. Hoeveler). We participated as amicus curiae in a long-standing suit challenging the treatment of persons with mental illness (often homeless persons) in the Dade County jail system. Our nationally recognized experts prepared a short-term plan which was adopted by the Court and implemented by Defendant Dade County to improve conditions. $945,000 was allocated for implementation of the expert's short-term plan. An additional $350,000 was allocated for a total increase in staff, which more than doubled existing staff. Additionally, defendants completed necessary renovations on the floor that housed many of our clients. Defendants approved the most significant recommendation of our expert on diversion, which will steer homeless persons with mental illness away from the jail to housing in the community and help them negotiate the criminal system. Co-counsel was Advocacy Center for Persons With Disabilities (now Disability Rights Florida).

Sanbourne v. Bush, Case No. 89-6283-Civ-Nesbitt (S.D. Fla., J. Nesbitt), originally filed as Gonzalez v. Martinez; summary judgment denial reported at 756 F. Supp. 1533 (S.D. Fla. 1991). This was a class action involving the care and treatment of persons with mental illness confined to South Florida State Hospital (SFSH) and living in the South Florida community. The complaint alleged that the residents did not receive minimally adequate care at SFSH, and that the conditions at SFSH were physically and emotionally debilitating, causing the deterioration rather than the rehabilitation of the patients placed there. Specifically, individuals had a complete lack both of privacy and of control over the most basic and routine aspects of life, including routine group nakedness, a failure to provide personal clothing for patients, instead of ill-fitting, soiled "communal" clothing, inadequate dental care, and abusive staff. The case originally settled in 1993, with the State agreeing to correct the deficiencies at SFSH and to seek funding to improve the mental health services available in the community. After several suspicious deaths at SFSH, motions for contempt were brought on medical and treatment issues. The final settlement approved in 1999 required defendants to hire an independent consultant/monitor for a period of six months, conduct independent reviews of deaths until February 28, 2000, and provide SLC with documents which permitted the monitoring of conditions at the institution. Co-counsel was Advocacy Center for Persons With Disabilities (now Disability Rights Florida).

LeClair v. Williams (N.D. Fla. 1983). Trading wrongful death damages against the State on behalf of one person to obtain policy reform that protected hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities in the future is a classic example of SLC’s innovative legal advocacy. A woman with severe disabilities died from a lithium overdose during an experimental drug treatment program at a Gainesville institution for persons with developmental disabilities. To prevent more unnecessary deaths, SLC filed a lawsuit that changed policy, resulting in a rule regarding the proper administration of psychotropic drugs that applied to all state institutions.

Healthy Kids Medical-Legal Partnership

In an effort to reduce the health-harming legal needs of children served by the University of Florida (UF), Southern Legal Counsel is partnering with UF Pediatrics to offer the Healthy Kids MLP to UF’s pediatric patients. Read more.

Transgender Health

Southern Legal Counsel, the ACLU of Florida, Legal Services of Greater Miami, and pro bono attorney Eric Lindstrom filed a federal lawsuit against the Florida Department of Management Services, the University of Florida, the Public Defender of the Second Judicial Circuit of Florida, and the Florida Department of Corrections on behalf of named plaintiffs Jami Claire, Kathryn Lane, and Ahmir Murphy, who as state employees were denied medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria because of the state’s categorical exclusion of coverage for medically necessary gender-affirming care. Read more.