01STOCK_ROCKCOUNTY_SEAL

JANESVILLE

The state Department of Health Services is investigating the Rock County Human Services Department in the wake of a Milton teen’s suicide.

Family members of Cole Fuller, who died by suicide April 4, believe Rock County officials failed to help Cole during the 45 days he was under county supervision for a Chapter 51 mental health commitment.

The family also believes Cole’s Rock County records inaccurately reflect interactions between the family and the human services department.

The family has filed complaints about Cole’s treatment with the county and state, said Jeff Fuller, Cole’s father.

Anastasia Vega, a behavioral health services specialist with the state, told The Gazette she cannot comment on the investigation or its scope.

Potential findings will be included in a public report after the investigation, Vega said. She would not say how long the investigation will take.

In a Wednesday email to Jeff Fuller that was shared with The Gazette, Vega said the investigation is ongoing and she would notify Jeff of any findings in writing once it is complete.

Katherine Luster, director of Rock County Human Services, contacted Jeff and Cole’s stepfather, Steve Wilson, via email July 25 to update the family on what the county has done since it received their complaint.

Luster said the department has:

  • Interviewed staff.
  • Reviewed records and compared them to a timeline of events the family reported.
  • Reviewed phone records for calls and texts to and from Steve Wilson.
  • Audited records to determine whether records were altered.
  • Reviewed records from Walworth County, where Cole was cared for before being transferred to Rock County.

In a July 9 letter to Luster, Wilson outlines what he says are inaccuracies in Cole’s records.

The records show Wilson told county workers that family members could locate mental health services for Cole but were not familiar with services in Rock County. Wilson said that is not true. He said county officials told him they would give him a list of providers based on the family’s insurance, which never happened.

Records show Heather Helgestad, a Rock County social worker, completed a crisis plan for Cole based on his Walworth County crisis plan and confirmed the plan was up to date with Cole’s mother.

Cole had suffered from mental illness for years. At the time of his death, Cole was on a Chapter 51 mental commitment that mandated he receive treatment for impulsive behavior, according to records the family provided to The Gazette.

A Walworth County Court had ordered the commitment. However, shortly before his death, Cole moved from his father’s Darien home to his mother’s home near Milton, and his care was transferred to the Rock County Human Services Department.

Cole’s stepfather said the family did not see Cole’s crisis plan until after Cole died.

Cole’s crisis worker, Steven Miller, wrote in Cole’s records that Wilson told him after Cole died that the family was receiving counseling through their church. Wilson denies saying that.

Miller had been chosen March 18 to work with Cole. After rescheduling with the family twice, Miller met with Cole the afternoon of his death.

Since Cole’s death, Jeff and Katherine Fuller’s insurance company has been billed more than $900 from Rock County for treatment the family says Cole never received, according to emails between Katherine Fuller and Helgestad.

Helgestad said bills for crisis services include costs for in-person contacts, phone contacts, travel and administrative duties. Some insurance companies do not cover crisis services, and county officials explained the billing to Cole’s mother and stepfather, Helgestad said.

Wilson said the billing was never explained to them and they never would have agreed to being billed for administrative services.

The Gazette was unable to reach Rock County Administrator Josh Smith for comment.

“This was a young man with his family screaming for help,” Wilson said in his letter to Luster. “This was a ‘house-on-fire’ situation ... not a ‘save him for a rainy day when bowling season is over’ activity.”

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