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Grothjan v. Taylor

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

February 1, 2019

JASON GROTHJAN, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. TAYLOR, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PHILIP P. SIMON, JUDGE

         Jason Grothjan represents himself in this Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference against Dr. Taylor and Dr. Eichman for his mental health treatment at the Westville Correctional Facility. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing they treated Grothjan properly, in accordance with their medical judgment. Grothjan responds that Dr. Eichman mismanaged his medications and that Dr. Taylor failed to personally see him or to provide appropriate housing and therapy. But because these are merely disagreements with Grothjan's course of treatment that do not rise to the level of deliberate indifference, summary judgment is warranted in this case.

         Factual Background

         Dr. Barbara Eichman worked as a psychiatrist at the Westville Correctional Facility. ECF 104-2 at 1-2. With respect to Grothjan's medical care, her role was to manage medication for his mental health. Id. at 5-9. She was not involved in housing decisions or medication administration. Id. at 4, 9.

         Dr. Eddie Taylor worked as the lead psychologist at the Westville Correctional Facility. ECF 104-4 at 3. He supervised the mental health program in a primarily administrative role and did not see patients on a regular basis but only if another mental health professional was not available. Id. While Dr. Taylor could make recommendations for housing assignments and transfers, the correctional staff ultimately made those decisions. Id. at 7-8. Group therapy was not available in restrictive housing. Id. at 17. Dr. Taylor could not prescribe medication and was not responsible for medication administration. Id. at 5. He recalls receiving letters from Grothjan about his mental health treatment and forwarded those letters to Grothjan's counselors for them to address his concerns. Id. at 20-21. He also followed up with Grothjan's counselors at mental health staff meetings. Id.

         In support of the motion for summary judgment, the defendants submitted affidavits, medical records (spanning 713 pages), and disciplinary records. Although laborious, I have attempted to distill the information in these documents in my recitation below. Suffice it to say that the records show anything but deliberate indifference; far from it. They demonstrate an active effort to treat Mr. Grothjan's mental health issues. Here's what occurred set forth in a chronological fashion:

         On June 3, 2016, Grothjan transferred to the Westville Correctional Center with diagnoses of depression and panic disorder, and he had prescriptions for mental health medication including Remeron, Paxil, and Buspirone. ECF 104-3 at 399-412. On intake, Grothjan reported a suicide attempt in 2015, but denied any current suicidal intent. Id. at 401. On June 11, Grothjan submitted a request to discuss his mental health treatment, and a counselor scheduled an appointment. Id. at 562. On June 15, Dr. Eichman renewed his prescription for Buspirone. Id. at 388-89. A week later, Grothjan submitted a request to discuss his medication due to his discomfort in an open dormitory, and a counselor scheduled an appointment with Dr. Eichman. Id. at 552. On June 26, Grothjan submitted a request to speak with a psychiatrist, and a counselor responded that an appointment had been scheduled. Id. at 551. On June 27, Grothjan missed an appointment with Dr. Eichman due to a conflict with his schedule. Id. at 376-77. On June 28, Grothjan was moved to restrictive housing for assaulting an officer and stated that he had no thoughts of suicide. Id. at 327, 373-75. On June 30, he submitted a request for a new housing assignment, and a counselor responded that correctional staff determined housing assignments. Id. at 550.

         On July 12, 2016, Dr. Eichman saw Grothjan for medication management. Id. at 356-58. Grothjan told Dr. Eichman that he was psychotic, but Dr. Eichman found his reports inconsistent with psychosis, noted he had no history of psychosis, and described him as someone who was simply seeking medication. Id. She also informed Grothjan of the potential side effects from anti-psychotic medication, including tardive dyskinesia. Id.; ECF 104-2 at 5. Dr. Eichman ultimately increased the dosage of Paxil based on his complaints of constant anxiety. ECF 104-3 at 356-58.

         On July 15 and 22, a counselor met with Grothjan at his cell, but could not meet with him on July 29 because he was in the law library. Id. at 345. On July 31, Grothjan submitted a request to replace his prescription of Paxil with Effexor, and a counselor responded that he was scheduled to see Dr. Eichman for a follow-up in October. Id. at 540.

         On August 10, 2016, Grothjan received individual therapy in an out-of-cell setting. Id. at 336-38. He complained about his housing assignment but denied suicidal intent. Id. On August 25, a counselor met with Grothjan at his cell. Id. at 332-33. He noted that Grothjan was set to be released from restrictive housing on September 25 and was recommended for placement in the Special Needs Acclimation Program (SNAP) unit, a specialized housing unit for inmates with mental illness. Id. However, Grothjan refused an out-of-cell visit. Id.

         On September 22, Grothjan submitted a request for Haldol, Risperdal, or Thorazine, and a counselor responded that he was scheduled for an appointment with Dr. Eichman. Id. at 539. On September 27, a counselor met with Grothjan at his cell. Id. at 315-16. He informed Grothjan that he was recommended for the SNAP unit, but Grothjan responded that he was not interested in the SNAP unit and again refused an out-of-cell visit. Id. On the same day, Dr. Eichman missed an appointment with Grothjan due to computer issues but renewed his prescription for Buspirone and Paxil. Id. at 311-14.

         On October 5, 2016, Grothjan submitted a request to reschedule his appointment with Dr. Eichman, and a counselor responded that his appointment had been rescheduled. Id. at 530. On October 6, Grothjan told a counselor that he heard voices, but the counselor found he did not present as though he was responding to internal stimulus. Id. at 303-04. Grothjan expressed concerns with his housing assignment and refused an out-of-cell visit. Id. On October 9, Grothjan sent medical records from the Swanson Center to the mental health unit. Id. at 529. On October 11, Grothjan submitted a request for placement in a step-down mental health unit or to return to Pendleton, and a counselor responded that he would discuss it with the doctor. Id. at 528.

         Also on October 11, Grothjan discussed the medical records from the Swanson Center with Dr. Eichman and asked her to replace Paxil with Effexor. Id. at 298-300. She agreed and asked him to choose between Remeron and Buspirone, and Grothjan chose Remeron. Id.

         Dr. Eichman considered the Swanson Center records, including the diagnosis for bipolar disorder, but did not personally observe the symptoms of bipolar disorder. ECF 104-2 at 6-7, 10. According to Dr. Eichman, bipolar disorder is particularly difficult to diagnose because it may present differently over time and its symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses. Id. at 4. Grothjan requested other anti-psychotic medications, but she found them inappropriate because he did not appear to have symptoms of psychosis or bipolar disorder. Id. at 6-7.

         On October 30, 2016, Grothjan submitted a report that he had not received Remeron since October 23. ECF 104-3 at 525. He submitted repeat requests on November 6 and November 13. Id. at 522, 524. On November 7, a counselor met Grothjan at his cell. Id. at 267. He complained about his medication but refused an out-of-cell visit. Id. On November 8, Grothjan submitted a request for grief counseling due to his ailing grandfather, and a counselor scheduled an appointment with him. Id. at 523. On November 16, Dr. Eichman noted that the Remeron prescription had been erroneously discontinued and restarted the prescription. Id. at 264. On November 17, a counselor met with Grothjan at his cell and discussed his grandfather. Id. at 262-63. On November 28, a counselor again met with Grothjan at his cell because he told correctional staff that he had the desire to hurt himself. Id. at 255. However, Grothjan denied suicidal ideation when the counselor arrived. Id.

         On December 6, 2016, Grothjan was moved to the general population. Id. at 254. Three days later, Grothjan received individual therapy in an out-of-cell setting. Id. at 251-53. He reported harassment to a counselor, and he was recommended for placement in the SNAP unit. Id. On December 19, Grothjan told a counselor that moving to the SNAP unit had improved his mental state only slightly. Id. at ...


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