The estate of a man who committed suicide in the Schenectady County Jail last year is suing the county and its jail medical provider, claiming he sought mental health care and that it was rejected.
In the early morning of May 28, 2014, Lucky Lee Wilkins Jr., 29, was found with a sheet around his neck, the other end tied to a bar at the top of the cell.
He had been incarcerated at the jail on a felony drug charge for more than two months, held on $25,000 bail.
His estate contends that during his time at the jail, Wilkins showed signs of severe depression, including suicidal thoughts. It also alleges that he sought assistance for depression from medical staff at the jail and at Ellis Hospital, but was never provided any meaningful care.
“Prior to his death, Mr. Wilkins reported that he had unsuccessfully sought help from medical staff on multiple occasions, but was denied, as they thought he was ‘faking’ his condition,” the suit reads.
Other inmates reported that Wilkins was severely depressed, the suit reads, and that he had threatened to commit suicide on multiple occasions and was being denied treatment. No time frame was included in that allegation.
“Upon information and belief, the failure to provide Mr. Wilkins any medical treatment directly caused his death,” the suit claims.
The state Commission on Corrections is investigating Wilkins’ death, according to the suit and a spokesman for the state.
Named as defendants are the jail’s medical provider, Correctional Medical Care, Ellis Hospital and Schenectady County.
Among the other allegations in the suit is that the staff of the for-profit Correctional Medical Care withheld care to keep costs down.
Correctional Medical Care did not return calls for comment. A spokesperson for Ellis Hospital declined comment, citing pending litigation, and an attorney with the county said they are reviewing the case.
Schenectady County Sheriff Dominic Dagostino, who is also named as a defendant, said he could not comment on the case directly. However, he said that typically if an inmate indicates he may be suicidal, the inmate is evaluated by medical staff and precautions are taken as needed.
“If someone threatens harm to himself, that’s something that we react to very quickly and very thoroughly,” Dagostino said.
Attorney E. Robert Keach, who is representing the estate, noted previous allegations against Correctional Medical Care in Schenectady County and elsewhere. He also noted a state attorney general’s settlement with the company a year ago.
“This is part of a pattern of difficulties in providing medical care at the Schenectady County Jail, primarily by Correctional Medical Care,” Keach said.
That settlement required an independent monitor for three years to ensure the company met its obligations for care, according to an Attorney General’s Office release.
The findings included that Correctional Medical Care understaffed facilities and that work hours shifted from physicians and dentists to less-qualified and lower-wage workers.
The Wilkins suit was filed Aug. 26 in U.S. District Court in Albany.