Registered nurse Duane Scott Riddick was already experiencing depression, insomnia, reduced appetite, paranoia and bizarre behavior before coming to Manatee County on vacation with his family. A recent break-up with a girlfriend and trouble at work were to blame.
But as a medical professional, when he began to feel worse he knew to get help. On March 29, he went to Centerstone in Bradenton where he was admitted voluntarily. The next day, Centerstone successfully petitioned a court to have Riddick held involuntarily.
He was on suicide watch for the next three days and a staffer was suppose to check on him every 15 minutes. But on the morning of April 3, Riddick was found dead inside the bathroom of his room, hanging by sheet that was tied to the wires of a smoke alarm.
No one had checked on him for about 10 hours, despite a doctor’s order.
The Riddick family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Centerstone of Florida this week, claiming the mental health hospital failed to follow its own suicide watch protocols and failed to remove anything he could and did use to harm himself.
“We feel this lawsuit is important so that other families don’t suffer the same callous neglect that ultimately cost Duane his life,” his mother Anna Riddick said in an issued statement. “It is our hope that this lawsuit will result in changes to how the facilities such as Centerstone are held accountable in their staffing, training and preventative procedures so that valuable human lives are saved.”
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigated the suicide, finding “a clear failure” by the Centerstone staffer but determined it didn’t rise to the level of a crime.
“The failure was due to either laziness by (the staffer) or policy failure by the hospital itself,” the lead detective stated in the investigation report. But that staffer, a “mental health technician,” told detectives and attorney Mindy Miller, the Tampa attorney who filed the suit for family, that suicide watch checks were not enforced on all patients.
Instead, technicians would be given a verbal report on who needed to be checked and who should be undisturbed so they could sleep, Miller told the Bradenton Herald. Riddick’s medical records from Centerstone list him as needing to be under a “suicide continuous observation.”
The staffer claims to have been told Riddick did not need an elevated observation, and should be allowed to sleep. The staffer was fired during the investigation.
“Everyone in our organization is saddened by the loss of a patient and our hearts go out to the individual’s family and friends,” a statement from Centerstone said. “We are committed to providing care that changes people’s lives and to the continual improvement of our processes of care.”
Centerstone would not comment further on the case or the fired staffer, stating it was their “policy not to provide further comment while there is ongoing litigation.”
But regardless of who failed, the lawsuit claims Centerstone is still liable. Riddick’s 79-year-old mother knows the lawsuit won’t bring her son back, according to Miller, but she is hoping to effect change.
“The surveillance confirms that at 9:36 p.m. my patient was given medication and not a single person then checked on him until the next morning,” Miller said.
The next check on Riddick’s room was done at 6 a.m. April 3, but no one actually went into his room. It was at 7:30 a.m., that someone finally entered the room and found Riddick dead.
Riddick had no history of mental health illness in his own medical history or his familiy’s, according to Miller. During his days committed at Centerstone, his treatment merely consisted of an evaluation, group therapy and medication but yet his insurance was billed $1,000 a day.
“If they had just protected him, he would of went on to live a normal life,” Miller said.