WEST PALM BEACH – A West Palm Beach woman recently filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Children and Families' Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Florida Department of Health and several individuals claiming that she was imprisoned by various health professionals and deprived her right to liberty under the 14th Amendment.
Vesta House, aka Vesta West, filed the suit May 15 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida naming Vern Melvin, regional managing director of the Florida Department of Children and Families' Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health; Dr. Celeste Philip, Florida Department of Health surgeon general and secretary; Linda C. De Piano, residential treatment facility administrator at the Jerome Golden Center; Dr. Barbara Golden, chairwoman the Jerome Golden Center Foundation; and Dr. Melanie Spritz and claiming false and intentional imprisonment and deprivation of her rights to liberty.
House's filing said she was admitted to Golden Center on June 14, 2017, after having an argument with her daughter. Her daughter called the police and the police took her to the center.
The filing claims the plaintiff's phone and purse were held while she was undergoing a physical exam that she did not consent to. The plaintiff claims she was not given her property back, even though they did not examine her until the next day, which is a violation of the patient bill of rights and the Florida statute which requires patients to see a doctor with no delay.
The filing claims that the next day, the plaintiff met with Spritz who was verbally abusive of the plaintiff. The plaintiff explained that she should not be hospitalized and that she should be discharged. The filing claims the defendant stated that the plaintiff needed a "PRN shot" and the defendant claimed that she would be given the shot, even though the plaintiff did not want it. The plaintiff was, however, given the shot against her will, the suit claims.
The plaintiff claims she was held in the center for six days and during that time only saw the doctor for two 15-minute periods.
House alleges that the "Florida Dept. of Children and Families has a responsibility to oversee facilities on a regular basis or have staff present at each facility to prevent abuses against the mentally ill as stated in Chapters 394 and 397 of the Florida statutes and are therefore culpable."
Though the plaintiff had suffered with mental illnesses years prior, she claims that she does not currently struggle with it anymore and should not have been held against her will as she is not a danger to herself or others.