The New York State Commission of Correction recently released a report on the suicide of Bartholomew Ryan, a 32-year-old East Meadow resident and an Iraq war veteran who hanged himself with a bedsheet in his cell at the Nassau County Correctional Facility in February 2012, less than 24 hours after he was incarcerated.
The state-appointed three-member commission, headed by commissioner Phyllis Harrison-Ross, released a five-page report in which it concluded that Ryan received “inadequate evaluation and treatment by Armor Correctional Health Care Inc.,” the independent medical care provider for the county jail.
Ryan, who served in the U.S. Marine Corp. from 2003 to 2008, was arrested on Feb. 22, 2012, and charged with driving under the influence of drugs. He was remanded to the Nassau Correctional Facility the following day, where he was to remain until his first scheduled court appearance on March 9.
Ryan was screened twice for suicide risk, in accordance with the Suicide Prevention Screening Guidelines, the report stated — once by uniformed correctional booking staff and once by a licensed practical nurse employed by Armor Inc. Because Ryan had a history of psychiatric treatment and had previously been on medication, he was referred to the facility’s mental health services before being housed in the jail’s new-admission health housing, the report continued, where his cell was supervised by an officer who conducted rounds every 15 minutes.
Ryan was then examined again by Armor Inc., this time by a doctor. The assessment, according to the report, was “inadequate.”
Shortly after 3 p.m. on Feb. 24, 2012, officers discovered Ryan hanging by a bedsheet from the cell bars, according to the report. Two officers, identified only by their initials, reported the emergency on the facility radio, cut Ryan down and, with the help of a third officer and an automated external defibrillator, unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate him.
The report stated that an ambulance was not called during the resuscitation attempt, but was called shortly afterward, at 3:23 p.m., which prompted a recommendation at the report’s conclusion to the Office of the Nassau County Sheriff to ensure that all staff are familiar with a procedure called Public Access Defibrillation, which requires activation of emergency medical services while an AED is being used.
The report also recommended that Armor Inc. hold a quality-improvement training session with its mental health staff, focusing on the “special mental health needs” of incarcerated combat veterans. The report further advised Armor Inc. to evaluate the professional conduct of the doctor who performed an “inadequate psychiatric assessment” of Ryan.
Ryan’s mother, Lilyann Ryan, is suing the county for what she claims was the wrongful death of her son. “The report confirms what we’ve been saying all along,” said her attorney, Nicholas Warywoda. “That the Nassau County Correctional Facility didn’t do what they were supposed to do, and it cost Bart Ryan his life.”
According to Warywoda, the case is now before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Nassau County Attorney John Campioli said he was unable to comment on the case, but he did say, “It’s a tragedy when one of our veterans commits suicide.”
Referring to the report’s recommendation that the county sheriff’s office review its procedures, Campioli said, “I can tell you that the sheriff and his staff are constantly reviewing their policies and procedures so as to improve them and make them the best that they possibly can.”
In a written statement issued through a county spokesperson, Nassau County Sheriff Michael Sposato said, “Because this matter is already in litigation, we cannot comment on any specific allegations other than to state that we firmly believe that the correction officers involved in this incident responded appropriately and in accordance with their training during the resuscitation efforts.”
John Jaronczyk, president of the Nassau County Sheriff Correction Officers Benevolent Association, said, “Like we said from the beginning, the officers did everything based on their training and experience. They immediately saw [Ryan], they cut him down, they notified medical right away, and they began immediate basic life support.
“Medical was supposed to come and take over the scene at that point,” Jaronczyk continued, “and there was a disconnect then, but it wasn’t on the officers, it was on the medical company.”
Asked to comment on this story, a spokesperson for Armor Inc. referred the Herald to the county sheriff’s office.