Woman blames Prestera, DHHR for uncle's death

CHARLESTON -- A Kanawha County woman is suing Prestera Center for Mental Health Services and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources after she claims they failed to care for her mentally ill uncle and were responsible for his death.

Malcolm Calhoun was diagnosed with Schizophrenia when he was approximately 20 years old and was institutionalized at Weston Mental Hospital until it closed, according to a complaint filed June 21 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Vicky L. Terry-Keene claims her uncle was released into the care of his parents as well as the care of Shawnee Hills, which is now Prestera.

In 2005, Terry-Keene found Calhoun eating out of a garbage can and she observed that he had lost approximately 150 pounds since the last time she had seen him, according to the suit, and had not been receiving his medication for Schizophrenia for several years.

Terry-Keene claims she filed for guardianship of her uncle and was appointed his guardian on Sept. 23, 2005.

Calhoun's condition stabilized and he reached his level of maximum medical improvement under Terry-Keene's guardianship, according to the suit.

Terry-Keene claims in May 2009 she needed to take care of her mother and granddaughter and contacted the WVDHHR's Adult Protective Services to notify them that she could no longer be Calhoun's guardian.

At the time, Calhoun was doing well in his apartment and with the Highland Partial Program and his treatment with process strategies, according to the suit, and when Terry-Keene inquired with the WVDHHR about getting Calhoun into an assisted community, she was told that it was not the defendant's job to find him a place to live and that no one would accept him because of his Schizophrenia.

Terry-Keene claims in 2010 she noticed Calhoun was not looking well and she called Prestera and was told Calhoun was doing fine, but that they did not need to keep her informed about anything dealing with him because she was no longer his guardian.

On June 15, 2010, Calhoun was scheduled to get a shot, and when he did not show for the appointment, Prestera believed that he might not be feeling well, but failed to check on him, according to the suit.

Terry-Keene claims the following day a Prestera employee called Calhoun, but did not receive an answer, and when the worker went to his apartment, Calhoun was found on the floor and he was transported by ambulance to Charleston Area Medical Center.

Calhoun died from a bacterial infection and strep pneumonia meningitis on June 25, 2010, according to the suit.

Terry-Keene claims the defendants failed to look after her uncle when he was in their care.

As a result of the defendants' actions in falling below the standards of care, Calhoun suffered serious physical injuries, psychological distress and injury, incurred medical expenses, humiliation, embarrassment, annoyance, pain, suffering, and ultimate death, according to the suit.

Terry-Keene is seeking compensatory damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. She is being represented by Mark W. Carbone and Jeffrey G. Blaydes.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Tod J. Kaufman.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 12-C-1161

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