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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Alabama youth facility’s ‘failure’ led to ‘unattended’ 15-year-old girl’s suicide, mother says

An Alabama mother has filed a lawsuit claiming negligence after her 15-year-old daughter took her own life while in a juvenile facility.

Madison Johnson, 15, died in September while a resident at Southeast Alabama Youth Services. The facility is a non-profit youth diversion program in Dothan that contracts with Alabama Department of Youth Services.

The teen’s mother, Vanessa Johnson, filed the lawsuit Monday in Houston County Circuit Court.

Efforts to obtain a comment from SAYS weren’t immediately successful.

The lawsuit contends Madison had a history of mental health issues and multiple prior suicide attempts. She was placed by the state in the care of SAYS until a bed could become available for Madison at a specialized residential behavioral health treatment facility.

“Madison was supposed to have been on suicide watch, requiring checks at least every 15 minutes,’’ the lawsuit says. “However, on information and belief, Madison was left unattended and was not checked on for over an hour,” leading up to the incident that led to her death.

The lawsuit said Madison on Sept. 30 ended her life by hanging herself with a bedsheet.

“The defendant’s failure to properly supervise Madison, despite clear indications of the need for suicide preventative measures, directly and proximately resulted in her untimely death,’’ the lawsuit states.

The suit seeks unspecified damages.

“If (they) had been coming to check on her every 10 minutes,” WTVY quoted Madison’s mother as saying during a previous press conference, “we could have gotten her back; every 20 minutes, we could have gotten her back; hours later, that was no signs of life.”

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, reach out to the 24–hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741; or chat with someone online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours.

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