Michael and Ellin Schott finalized their divorce in March 2015, but by late summer the two were “exploring possibly getting back together,” Michael said.
“I’d do a check on her,” he said, explaining that it seemed like she had been able to kick her addiction after a couple hospital stays. “I’d put her up in hotels occasionally. And we slept together a couple times.”
Thanks to Salem Neurological Center in Winston-Salem, Ellin appeared to be “on a good regimen” of medication including anti-seizure meds Keppra and Gabapentin.
“I’m sort of an expert on Ellin,” Michael said. “We had been together like a week before her arrest. I was thorough. This had healed, that had healed. [There were] no marks between her toes, and no indication that she was anything but bright-eyed and bushy tailed.”
Thomas corroborates Michael’s narrative, adding that Ellin was gaining needed weight and was clear-eyed again. Though Ellin never talked to Thomas directly about her addiction, Thomas would talk to Michael sometimes to get the scoop.
“She seemed really good,” Thomas said. “And he was helping her. He wasn’t letting her back living with him, but between what I spent and what he was giving her, she was in hotels for a period of time. I think it was possible that she would’ve come out of this okay. I had hopes.”
Being homeless and panhandling embarrassed Ellin, Michael said, and she would wonder aloud how she ended up in that position. Ever grateful for the help of strangers, Ellin kept a small notebook with a list on names and ages of people who gave her money.
“The point of that was that she wanted to write an article… about getting by on the kindness of strangers,” Michael said. “She said her biggest contributors, people who were nicest to her, were young, black males. But it was quite a range, including the police officers. [They] gave her money, went and got her food.”
Jacob didn’t share his father’s optimism, and neither did Ellin’s mother Lenoir. A few days after what would’ve been Ellin’s birthday, they reflected on Ellin’s fate during a meal at a Ruby Tuesday down the street from the Jewish cemetery where Ellin is buried.
“She should not have died the way she did,” Lenoir said, “but we saw it coming.”
Jacob expressed similar sentiment.
“The fact that she died didn’t surprise me, but the way she did disgusts me,” he said, blaming corporate greed for his mother’s untimely passing.
Her brother Steve is still trying to make sense of everything that happened, especially everything that happened before Ellin’s arrest.
“She was a bright, capable person who allowed her life to spiral down, and that’s the sadness,” he said. “There was so much potential in that person. She was absolutely fantastic with my father. She was so patient; she was always over there. There was a lot of good in her. I think candidly the substance issues finally overtook everything. Deep down there’s some anger I have because of all the potential she had, and it just kind of got wasted.”
[pullquote]“The fact that she died didn’t surprise me, but the way she did disgusts me.” — Jacob Schott[/pullquote]Ultimately Ellin was responsible for her own life, Steve said, but he said there’s more to it as well.
“I hold her responsible but… I think had she dealt with some of her self-esteem issues in her late teens, [there] might’ve been a very different outcome,” he said. “I blame the medical profession and now there’s amazing exposure being given to this, about doctors writing prescriptions to opioids like I change my underwear. Why do we do that?
“I wouldn’t say it was the cause of Ellin’s situation in the end but it certainly was a big contributing factor,” he continued. “She was a really sweet person before the substances took over her life. And it’s amazing how that can consume a person.”
Michael is concerned about the prevalence of opioid addiction too, but he’s also dug into the specifics of Ellin’s passing while Steve and Lenoir have opted not to relive the trauma. Standing in the cemetery a couple dozen feet from Ellin’s headstone on a blistering summer afternoon, Michael offered a distillation of his takeaways.
“I have three observations I’d like to make,” he said. “We need less addictive painkillers to be prescribed. We need better social care for addicts and the poor. And No. 3, we need inmate care to be done by people who care for the inmates more than the bottom line.”
Correct Care Solutions responded through a spokesperson after this story went to press. The following is a list of detailed questions, followed by responses from the company.
The medical examiner’s report for decedent Ellin Schott indicates that the probable cause of Schott’s death was “complications of prolonged seizure activity.” The medical examiner’s report, based on interviews with detention officials and medical staff and review of medical documents, also indicates that Schott notified medical staff during intake that she suffered seizures and took Keppra and Gabapentin (anti-seizure medications), that during her confinement at Guilford County Jail from Aug. 21-24, 2015, Schott complained of “nerve damage in her legs,” “leg pains and muscle spasms” and that she was “shaking and trembling.” Further, the report indicates that when Schott complained to a nurse, the nurse said that all she could give her for pain relief was Tylenol without a doctor’s authorization. The medical examiner’s report goes on to say that Schott suffered multiple seizures in the early morning hours of Aug. 24, before she was transferred to Cone Hospital. Schott’s ex-husband indicates to Triad City Beat that Schott’s prescribed anti-seizure medications were back at her hotel room and could have been retrieved at any time, and further that she had an open prescription at a local pharmacy in Greensboro that could have been accessed over the weekend of her detention.
- Why did Correct Care Solutions employees not take action to ensure that Schott was provided her prescribed medications, specifically Keppra and Gabapentin?
- Was Schott’s death preventable?
- Was a doctor on site at the jail on the weekend of Aug. 22-23 to assess Schott’s condition and ensure that she received any medically necessary care? If not, why?
- Why wasn’t Schott transported to a hospital for emergency care on Aug. 22 when she was observed “shaking and trembling under her blanket,” or at any other time prior to experiencing multiple seizures in the early morning hours of Sept. 24?
“Due to healthcare privacy regulation, CCS is unable to comment on any specific circumstances related to an individual patient. CCS employees are trained medical professionals whose top priority is providing the highest standard of care to all patients we serve. We take the death of any patient very seriously and conduct an internal review of our team’s performance in the event of an incident such as this one to ensure that protocol was followed.”
Background and questions regarding Dino Vann Nixon:
The autopsy for Dino Vann Nixon, who died in Forsyth County Jail in August 2013, indicates that his death “was related to withdrawal from benzodiazepines.” A complaint filed by Nixon’s alleges that Correct Care Solutions employees knew that Nixon took Xanax (benzodiazepine). The complaint alleges that medical staff did not provide Xanax to Mr. Nixon.
- Why did Correct Care Solutions employees not take action to ensure that Nixon was provided prescribed medication, specifically Xanax? Were any actions taken to ascertain Nixon’s prescription for Xanax? If so, what specific actions were taken? Did Correct Care Solutions have Xanax in stock at the Forsyth County Jail during the period of Nixon’s confinement?
- Was Nixon’s death preventable?
- Why wasn’t Nixon transported to a hospital as early as July 19, when a nurse reported that Nixon was hallucinating and crawling around the floor on his hands and knees, or at any other time prior to his death?
“CCS is unable to comment on healthcare provided to individual patients, and we are unable to comment on incidents which are being actively litigated.”
Background and questions regarding Jennifer McCormack:
Jennifer McCormack died at Baptist Hospital in September 2014 shortly after a confinement at Forsyth County Jail. She reported to medical staff that she was in withdrawal from opioids, pregnant and suicidal at the time of intake. Janis McCormack, the decedent’s mother, indicated in an interview with Triad City Beat that she brought Jennifer’s prescribed Suboxone (an opioid medication) to the jail and turned it over to medical staff, but it is unclear whether the Suboxone was ever administered to the patient. Janis McCormack also indicated to Triad City Beat that she brought Jennifer’s prescribed Xanax to the jail, but that staff refused to accept it. Jail incident reports indicate that Jennifer McCormack experienced multiple episodes of falling and urinary incontinence during her 16-day confinement in Forsyth County Jail. Jennifer McCormack was discovered unresponsive in her cell on Sept. 13, 2014, and transported to Baptist Hospital. She remained in a coma and died five days later.
- Did Correct Care Solutions employees administer the prescribed Suboxone to Jennifer McCormack?
- Why didn’t Correct Care Solutions employees accept McCormack’s prescribed Xanax, which was furnished by her mother? Was McCormack provided Xanax that was in stock or procured by medical staff during the period of her confinement?
- Was McCormack’s death preventable?
- Why wasn’t McCormack transported to a hospital as early as Sept. 4, when jail staff discovered her trapped against the wall by her bed and discovered a large puddle of urine on the floor?
“Due to healthcare privacy regulation, CCS is unable to comment on any specific circumstances related to an individual patient. CCS employees are trained medical professionals whose top priority is providing the highest standard of care to all patients we serve. This includes opioid withdrawal and detoxification. We take the death of any patient very seriously and conduct an internal review of our team’s performance in the event of an incident such as this one to ensure that protocol was followed.”
- What is Correct Care Solutions’ policy on when a doctor should be on site at local detention facilities? If a doctor is not on site, what is the policy regarding authorization for subordinate staff to make decisions regarding inmates’ needs for various medications?
“CCS maintains relationships with outside medical providers who offer services which are not available within the facility’s medical unit. CCS employees have direct lines of communication with these outside providers and are trained to determine when treatment outside the facility is necessary. Medical doctors routinely engage with facility staff and are readily available in the event that their expertise is needed.”
- What medications does Correct Care Solutions keep in stock at local detention facilities? If the list of medications kept in stock does not include Xanax, why not?
“CCS is unable to disclose the specifics of its medical inventory, but in general terms, that inventory reflects the common needs of a facility’s patient population. All pre-existing conditions are to be identified through the intake process and if a patient has a pre-prescribed medication, that is administered with the oversight of the facility’s physician partner.”
- What policies does CCS have for obtaining medications urgently needed by inmates that are not in stock? Does CCS have a preferred provider to obtain medications at reduced cost?
“CCS has access to medication through it partnership with community medical providers and the facility’s medical director.”
- Does Correct Care Solutions minimize transferring patients offsite for emergency medical care to keep costs down? Does Correct Care Solutions’ efforts to keep costs down put patients health at risk?
“CCS makes patient transfer decisions based strictly on a patient’s state of health and immediate need.”