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Lawsuit: Jail used cold turkey, home remedies for withdrawal treatment

MANCHESTER — On Aug. 21, 2008, Kevin McEvoy readily told the staff at Valley Street jail that he was a heroin user when he entered the jail following his arrest for receiving stolen property.

Besides the needle marks on his arms, he was high and exhibiting signs of withdrawal, according to medical screening forms that day. He got sick, and guards who dealt with McEvoy noted he was weak, nauseated and "did not look good."

Four days later, he was dead, found in a cell. An autopsy determined McEvoy had died of severe dehydration and kidney failure.

His parents sued the jail. The county's insurer settled and paid $415,000 to the McEvoys in 2011.

In a stinging review of McEvoy's death, a consultant noted that Valley Street jail personnel should have better monitored McEvoy and hospitalized him when dehydration set in. The consultant also faulted the county for not having a standard for heroin withdrawal, although it did for alcohol withdrawal.

"The problem with that particular case was the failure of the system," said Dr. Charles Ward, the former jail physician who said he was fired from his job three years ago on an unrelated case.

Many correction facilities use prescription medicine to lessen withdrawal symptoms, and they use an 11-item scale to assess withdrawal, wrote the consultant, Jacqueline Moore of Colorado, who was hired by the lawyers of McEvoy's estate.

But Ward had his own list of medicines for withdrawal — Maalox, Tylenol and Kaopectate, the consultant wrote.

Ward admitted during his deposition that he did not know correctional industry standards for inmate health care and had never read the manuals, Moore wrote.

"Dr. Ward did not develop adequate procedures for detoxification and monitoring of inmates. He expected the inmates to quit 'cold turkey,'" Moore wrote.

In its replies to the McEvoy lawsuit, county officials said they relied on Ward's expertise, that they have immunity as government officials, and that McEvoy was in "self-imposed" poor health as a heroin addict and someone with a history of heart and mental-health issues.

In an interview, Jail Superintendent David Dionne said the jail has now developed a standard for inmates withdrawing from heroin. He said McEvoy was in trouble medically when he arrived.

"We were behind the eight-ball," Dionne said.

In her review, Moore faulted jail nurses for placing McEvoy in the general population, for incomplete examinations, and for not sending him to the hospital when they knew he was dehydrated. Although the nurses claimed in depositions that they took his vital signs, none were recorded.

In the last six years, the county has also settled two other death-related suits.

In 2011, it paid $15,000 to the estate of Edward Caldwell, who died in a Massachusetts hospital shortly after his release from Valley Street Jail in 2008. A drug addict, Caldwell had a complicated medical history with jail and hospital officials; he died of a drug overdose in the Massachusetts hospital, after an unidentified person injected him with drugs.

In 2008, the county paid $24,000 to the estate of Dana Vath, after he was found hanging in his cell six years earlier. In lawsuits, the estate claimed he had been beaten in his cell by corrections officers.


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Well, I gotta tell ya, I'm not real sympathetic to the so called victims.
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November 11, 2013 6:25 am

Dot Knightly said:

Many of the victims were never even convicted of crimes. They were only accused. The only people who are treated for their addictions at Valley St. are pregnant women. I guess they're afraid of getting sued for two deaths instead of one.
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November 11, 2013 8:12 am

Joe Aramas said:

The parents sued.. Really.. Their little scum son who was stealing should have had his hands cut off then got his treatment.. His parents should have to do the time for him not rewarded for being lousy parents. But in the end they get rewards for raising a junkie son. This world is nuts,, coddle the prisoners and wonder why they aren't afraid to come back... This country has gone to hell
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November 11, 2013 9:28 am

J. E. Ginger Ferrer said:

As long as officials of any title are immune from responsibility for the wrong doing seemingly ignored and or condoned by those under their watch, these crimes will continue.To appear to be above the law even when it entails a criminal in jail seems to be the perception. So what, so to speak he or she is a criminal, so they are not entitled to constitutional protections and needs as they arise.This lack of compliance seems to be an accepted way of life by those who are supposed to operate above board no matter where they are posted and what responsibilities they are supposed to oversee.Two wrongs have never made a right. And the fact that there is a lot of history of wrong doing at this facility cries out for why it takes so long to investigate it right out of the gate instead of waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting.Will these lawsuits fix the problems? Will the next person who oversees this facility allow it to get so out of hand that human beings die? Criminal in a jail appear to be targeted for the angst of some within its operational processes and do not step up to do the right thing, despite the criminal element of the situation. They then become a criminal but they do not go to jail for having contributed to the death of another? No! They just get sued and lose their job.
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November 11, 2013 12:12 pm

stuart urie said:

Many who served during these incidents are still serving at VSJ now. Firings are rare at VSJ. SSDD.
(Report Abuse)

November 12, 2013 5:36 pm

stuart urie said:

Private prisons get private results, and NH LE knows this convenient fact....
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November 12, 2013 5:37 pm

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