The family of a 14-year-old who died after being restrained at BayPointe Hospital is accusing staff members of using excessive force, but state officials have indicated they followed proper procedures.
Located in West Mobile and owned by AltaPointe, BayPointe Hospital is a free-standing psychiatric hospital specializing in inpatient care for children and adolescents. It offers long-term treatment in a residential setting, but also short-term stabilization services.
Jermaine Davis, 14, became a patient at BayPointe on May 17 after his family voluntarily placed him there for what was intended to be a weeklong stay. According to his mother, Earnestine Perdue, Davis had previously been diagnosed with autism and bipolar disorder.
Five days after his arrival, though, Davis died after an altercation with staff members at the hospital that required him to be restrained. AltaPointe said the incident began after Davis showed signs of aggressiveness and instability while he was under observation.
“Staff with specialized training in handling such events responded with customary and accepted procedures to minimize danger to the patient, other patients and staff,” AltaPointe spokesperson April Douglas said in a statement. “These procedures were effective in calming the patient.”
There appear to be two different versions of what happened next.
Davis’ family, who are being represented by attorney Jerome Carter, have released a series of videos on social media in recent weeks that include statements from people who purportedly witnessed the staff taking down and restraining Davis at BayPointe on May 22.
Though the witnesses in the video are not identified by name, some claim to be either BayPointe patients or former AltaPointe employees. At least three of them claim they heard Davis say something to the effect that he “couldn’t breathe” during the scuffle.
“They had him on his stomach, which is absolutely not a proper restraint protocol,” one unidentified former employee told Carter. “A proper restraint should always have a consumer’s shoulders perpendicular to the floor so that there is no obstruction of their breathing.”
Carter has also accused AltaPointe of not being straightforward in its initial response to Davis’ death, claiming some of the witnesses he’s spoken to gave an account that “contradicts substantially” what administrators initially told Davis’ family.
“Initially, there were concerns about there not being any video of what happened to their son, but the information they received from the administration of the hospital, from our investigation, is turning out not to be full and complete,” Carter said. “Even to this day, they’ve still not been afforded the opportunity to see the video that we’ve confirmed does exist.”
Carter said his firm has demanded AltaPointe preserve any and all evidence from the events that led up to Jermaine Davis’ death, including any security footage.
As a medical provider, AltaPointe is limited in what it can disclose about any patient but released a brief statement acknowledging Davis did stop breathing. However, Douglas said Davis stopped breathing after he’d been subdued by the staff, not during the struggle. Both she and AltaPointe CEO Tuerk Schlesinger have maintained the staff members’ response was appropriate.
“With constant in-person monitoring and observation, it was noted [Davis] later stopped breathing,” Douglas wrote in the statement. “Prompt medical attention was provided by our medical staff and 911 was notified immediately.”
Some of the witnesses Carter has presented say they saw the incident as it occured, but Douglas noted the standard procedure for dealing with an aggressive patient would be to remove bystanders from the area, including any patients or nonessential personnel.
Douglas also said AltaPointe hasn’t shared any surveillance video with Davis’ family because they “started litigation maneuvers” immediately.
The results of a state autopsy are still pending, so an official cause of death has not yet been identified. However, an initial investigation by surveyors from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) suggests proper standards were followed.
After conducting a survey at BayPointe on May 31 following a complaint about Davis’ death, Tonya Blankenship, who works with ADPH’’s Bureau of Health Provider Standards, wrote in a June letter, “… the complaint was unsubstantiated, and there were no deficiencies cited.”
Douglas said ADPH reviewed footage of Davis being restrained, went through documents related to his treatment and interviewed staff members and doctors as part of that investigation.
As for Davis’ family, Carter has yet to bring any type of legal action on their behalf, though he has publicly mentioned pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit. He says that would be the most appropriate path forward because of the death occurring at a hospital.
While Carter plans to continue his firm’s investigation of the events preceding Davis’ death, he said he has encouraged local police and prosecutors to investigate the matter as well.
At the family’s request, the Mobile Police Department did follow up with ADFS and the staff at BayPointe about Davis’ death earlier this month, though MPD spokesperson Charlette Solis said there were “no signs of criminal conduct or foul play” at this time.