Private health firm increases staffing in jails after inmate’s death

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The private company contracted to provide medical services for jails in Guilford County agrees to improve practices for ensuring that inmates receive proper medications in the wake of a former inmate’s death.

Correct Care Solutions, the private firm contracted to provide medical care at the Greensboro and High Point jails, has hired additional employees at each facility to confirm prescription medications for inmates who are booked over the weekend.

The hires were made at the request of Sheriff BJ Barnes, whose office announced the change in a June 9 press release.

Jim Secor, the sheriff’s attorney, confirmed that the agency initiated the changes as a result of the death of Ellin Schott, a 57-year-old woman whose health rapidly deteriorated after her booking in the Greensboro jail in August 2015. Schott was booked in the jail on a Friday afternoon. A medical examiner’s report notes that Schott told jail staff she experienced seizures at the time of her booking. The report also indicates that staff was aware that she took Keppra and Gabapentin, two anti-seizure medications. The following Monday at 3 a.m., the medical examiner’s report indicates that Schott was having multiple seizures, and told a jail nurse that she took seizure medication and had not received it since coming into detention. Schott died two days later at Cone Hospital as a result of “complications of prolonged seizure activity,” according to the medical examiner.

Triad City Beat published an exclusive report that examined Schott’s death in June 2016.

The sheriff’s office has consistently maintained that it was not at fault for Schott’s death, but Secor said the sheriff’s office agreed to issue a press release to publicize changes implemented after death at the request of her estate. Fred Berry, a Greensboro lawyer who represents the Schott estate, acknowledged the changes in an interview with Triad City Beat.

“As the attorney for the family in the tragic events surrounding Ellin Schott’s death, we are most happy and pleased about the improvements that the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office has made,” Berry said.

The new employees hired by Correct Care Solutions to ensure that inmates receive continued access to prescribed medications are now issuing medications orders based on information they receive from outside pharmacists and healthcare providers, even during weekends, the sheriff’s press release indicates. The sheriff’s office also said that Correct Care Solutions has improved its internal procedures by requiring nursing staff to follow up fax requests to outside pharmacies with phone calls.

“Correct Care’s direct phone contact with the outside pharmacy or provider, coupled with the facsimile request that proceeds it, are designed to further reduce any potential delay in the inmate care,” the sheriff said. “These procedures are followed on weekdays and weekends.”

The new practices also call for nursing staff to leave a note for the next shift to ensure that efforts continue to reach the outside pharmacy. In the event that “the inmate-patient has a more emergent need for medications,” the sheriff said, “the Correct Care nurse can access Correct Care’s on-call jail physician, who can immediately order lab work to determine the inmate’s specific medication needs and initiate a prescription.”

Yet Secor said Correct Care Solutions is not bound to the changes through any amendment in its contract.

Jim Cheney, a spokesperson for Correct Care Solutions, said the company has similar provisions for facilitating inmates’ access to medications at the Forsyth County jail, although he skirted a question about whether any changes were made following Schott’s death.

“CCS staffs its operations based on the needs of the individual facility,” he said in an email. “We believe that the team and services provided within the Forsyth facility are where they need to be at this time.”

Two inmates, Deshawn Lamont Coley and Stephan Antwan Patterson, have recently died in the Forsyth County jail within the span of one month. Coley complained to staff at the jail about his asthma, according to Tony Ndege, a local activist who said he spoke to Coley’s wife. Effrainguan Muhammad, the Winston-Salem representative of the Nation of Islam, has said that family members of both Coley and Patterson “reached out about the condition” of both men before their deaths.