Doctor Blames Poor Medical Care For Deaths At The Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex

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Brandon Johnson died at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex (“the Complex”) in October 2012. Mr. Johnson died due to complications from a broken neck. For the three days that Mr. Johnson was at the Complex, he complained to staff of paralysis and a lack of feeling in his legs. He requested to be taken to another hospital for the care of his paralysis. Despite his complaints, Complex staff failed to discover Mr. Johnson’s broken neck, they thought he was faking his paralysis, and they did not take him to another hospital for an evaluation and treatment.

Andre Harvey died at the Complex in December 2013 after being restrained by Complex security and Milwaukee Police Department officers; and after Mr. Harvey was given medication to “calm him down.” Mr. Harvey was also known to have some significant existing physical medical conditions. Because Mr. Harvey had been previously brought to the Complex twice during the same week that he died, Complex staff would have been aware of both his physical and mental health conditions.

Mr. Johnson and Mr. Harvey were two of the seven patients to die at the Complex in 2012 and 2013. In response to the 2012 incidents, Disability Rights Wisconsin (“DRW”), in its role as the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy agency for the State of Wisconsin, hired board certified psychiatrist William Knoedler to conduct a review of the deaths at the Complex. Dr. Knoedler issued a report stating that the medical care at the Complex was so poor that it should be closed. In June 2013, that report was provided to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and others involved with the Complex. With respect to Mr. Johnson, Dr. Knoedler stated that his treatment “was seriously and unacceptable deficient, probably contributing to [his] untimely death.” Dr. Knoedler has recently expressed disappointment with the lack of response to his report. “These recommendations are urgent, but no significant changes have occurred.”

The Milwaukee civil right lawyers of Samster, Konkel & Safran, S.C. represent the families of Brandon Johnson and Andre Harvey.