Mental Health Advocacy Org Sues Wy. Hospital

On Tuesday a case was filed in the District of Wyoming by Protection & Advocacy System Inc. against Stefan Johnson, in his role as the interim director of the Wyoming Department of Health and Paul Mullenax as Administrator of the Wyoming State Hospital. The case is regarding violations of the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act (PAIMI).

PAIMI, the complaint explained, was federal legislation that sought to protect the rights of those with developmental disorders and mental health issues. One of the rights listed under the act is the right of these patients to have access to patient protection and advocacy groups which can advocate for better living conditions, investigate accusations of improper medical treatment, abuse, and other situations that can arise in mental health facilities.

The plaintiff is the group primarily responsible in Wyoming for this advocacy, court documents say. The defendant, Wyoming State Hospital, is a facility that serves this population and the plaintiff notes several issues and cases that have previously been brought against this advocacy group. Per the plaintiff, prior bad acts and restrictions of access by the defendants to the patients resulted in declaratory judgment and an access agreement in 2006. However the plaintiff argue that the agreement has been violated, especially since COVID-19 has made in person communication difficult and the advocacy group has relied on telephone encounters, which the plaintiff accuses the defendants of restricting or unreasonably delaying.

The plaintiff is suing for violations of the PAIMI Act, and seek declaratory judgment that the delaying and restricting of access by the advocacy group to the patients violates the act and the access agreement. The plaintiff also seeks enforcement of the access agreement and court supervision of the access agreement to ensure compliance from the defendants. Plaintiff is represented by Andrew Lemke, Sr.