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Search for Mental Health Care Ends Tragically at Florida Jail

by David M. Reutter

County jails are ill equipped to care for people with mental health issues. That fact was not known to Vicki Futch, 80, when she called Florida’s Putnam County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) for help because her son, Gregory Allan Futch, 54, was “out of his mind.”

Greg went “into a different zone” about twice a month, Vicki said. She was usually able to snap him out of it by asking him for something. “If I needed him, he would rise to the occasion,” she stated.

That, however, was not the case on January 30, 2018. On that day, Greg was more aggressive and got in his mother’s face. He hit her twice with a closed fist. In the day leading up to the incident, she had been texting with PCSO Capt. David Ussery about getting help for Greg. Ussery said he would take Greg to a hospital and help her fill out the paperwork.

When a deputy showed up in response to her call, Greg was arrested for battery on a person 65 or older. Vicki assumed he would be sent to a hospital for help.

“I had heard that the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office was trained, the deputies were trained to deal with mental illness,” she said. “I thought if he went to jail that they would take care of him, they would send him where he needed to go if he was sick physically or mentally.”

While that is what some people assume, things go awry when privatized medical care is involved. The PCSO contracts with Management and Training Corporation (MTC) through a subsidiary, MTC Medical, LLC, to provide medical and mental health care for prisoners at the county jail.

Once booked into the jail, Greg exhibited bizarre behavior. He refused breakfast the next morning and a nurse found he was exhibiting signs of dehydration. He complained of vomiting and an inability to hold food down on February 1, 2018. He was sent to the Putnam Community Medical Center and treated. His urine tested positive for opiates and benzodiazepines. Instructions on his release papers ordered jail staff to return him to the hospital or call 911 if his symptoms worsened.

Although his symptoms did get worse, nothing was done to ensure he received medical care. Greg continued to vomit and languished in his solitary confinement cell. He was given medication to help with the vomiting but kept refusing meals. A nurse noted on February 7 that he was dehydrated and complaining he could not walk. An MTC psychiatrist determined Greg was “malingering” or “acting out” to get attention.

His condition continued until things took a turn for the worse on February 15, 2018. A nurse responded to a medical emergency, took Greg’s vitals, helped get him off the floor onto his bed and gave him a drink of water. Sometime later that morning, he was found unresponsive. He was taken to a hospital and died on February 17. During his brief time at the jail, Greg dropped from 154 to 100 pounds. 

“Dr. [Patrick] Harris and the medical staff watched Mr. Futch die from starvation and dehydration,” wrote Robert Cohen, a doctor and expert witness hired by the Futch family. “They documented that he wasn’t eating, and did nothing.”

The family retained attorney Greg Lauer, who filed suit in federal court against PCSO and MTC; the wrongful death complaint remains pending and has been referred to mediation. See: Futch v. MTC Medical, LLC, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Fla.), Case No. 3:18-cv-01323-BJD-MCR. 



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Related legal case

Futch v. MTC Medical, LLC