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Schnader Files Class Action Lawsuit to Address Systemic Mental Health Care Failures at Allegheny County Jail

On September 15, 2020 by Schnader in News

Keith E. Whitson, Managing Partner of Schnader’s Pittsburgh Office, is representing individuals with mental health conditions who are incarcerated at the Allegheny County Jail, in a class action lawsuit filed on September 15, 2020. The lawsuit, filed together with the Abolitionist Law Center and the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, alleges severe and systemic constitutional violations, as well as violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, for the Jail’s failure to provide adequate mental health care and its discriminatory treatment of people with psychiatric disabilities. The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

From the Complaint:

“The mental health care system at the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) is rife with systemic deficiencies that deprive people with psychiatric disabilities of necessary care, and indeed, make their conditions worse. Superficial or non-existent diagnostic care, the lack of counseling or group therapy, medication mismanagement, and a culture of punishment rather than treatment amount to a system of mental health care that rarely provides any actual treatment. When treatment is provided, it is inadequate and fails to adhere to a minimally accepted standard of care. The mental health care department is, and for many years has been, severely understaffed, and ACJ does not provide staff members with the tools or resources necessary to adequately diagnose, care for, and treat their patients.

Consequently, individuals with psychiatric disabilities at ACJ experience serious psychological and emotional pain and suffering, routine decompensation, increased disciplinary  infractions resulting in harmful imposition of solitary confinement and excessive use of force, as well as a dangerously elevated risk and incidence of self-harm and suicide attempts. ACJ has one of the highest suicide rates of any jail in the nation. Instead of treatment, Defendants rely primarily and unconstitutionally on force and solitary confinement, greatly exacerbating already existing mental health problems and causing significant suffering and harm.”

Click here to read the complaint filed in this case.

And click here to read the press release for this matter dated September 15, 2020.