Editorial: Bad medicine at the Forsyth jail

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The Forsyth County Commission’s decision to renew the county jail’s healthcare contract with Correct Care Solutions shows a remarkable lack of awareness of the facts. Even worse, it reveals a stunning lack of compassion among the five members who voted for the extension for their fellow human beings.

The vote comes on the heels of two inmate deaths in May. Their names were Stephen Antwon Patterson and Deshawn Lamont Coley.

Coley’s crime was driving while impaired. But what killed him, his family says, was his asthma. Both his wife and his mother called the jail after he had complained to them of breathing problems on a Sunday night; both were told Correct Care controlled his access to his asthma inhaler, and that he could see a doctor on Monday. Before the sun rose on Tuesday morning, he was dead.

Before Patterson and Coley, there was Ellin Schott, the subject of a Triad City Beat investigation in June 2016. She was denied access to her seizure medication over a weekend while serving in the Guilford County Jail, also a Correct Care client. She died Monday morning at 3 a.m., according to the medical examiner, from “complications of prolonged seizure activity.”

Jennifer McCormack Schuler, subject of another TCB investigation, was pregnant and addicted to pain pills when she landed herself in the Forsyth County jail. She was not allowed to bring in her Xanax, her mother said, and Correct Care was responsible for administering her Suboxone prescription, an opioid medication that contains the drug buprenorphine and is used to treat narcotic addiction. And she was denied a prescribed anti-nausea medication, which prevented her from holding down food and water, leading to dehydration. She was dead in three weeks from acute renal failure and cardiac arrest.

in jail, the bar is pretty low — all we have to do is keep them alive.

Dino Vann Nixon died in the Forsyth County jail in August 2013. Vann Nixon was denied access to his prescriptions for Xanax, Ambien and Vicodin, which he had been taking for years and had become dependent. He died from complications associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal.

And then there was Matthew McCain, who died under Correct Care supervision at the Durham County jail. McCain suffered from epilepsy and diabetes. He told his family he was being denied access to his meds.

Everybody is suing, which is just plain bad for business.

But more than that: When we as a society lock someone up, effectively removing their ability to take care of themselves, we are wholly responsible for the well-being of that person. And in jail, the bar is pretty low — all we have to do is keep them alive.

Since 2004, according to the federal-courts website Justia, Correct Care has been named in 1,055 lawsuits in 38 states. That didn’t come up at the Forsyth County Commission meeting, but callous indifference did.

“You know, hospitals have a death every day,” Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt said. “They have lawsuits every day.”

But nobody withholds medicine in a hospital.