Ex-deputy accuses Pitkin County jail health care provider of negligence over assault, strangulation

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Pitkin County Jail
File photo

A former Pitkin County deputy who was the victim of a violent attack by a jail inmate with a history of psychiatric episodes is suing a health care provider for negligence over the incident.

Deborah Kendrick’s lawsuit alleges Denver-based Correctional Health Partners, or CHP, failed to insure that a prisoner has been treated with anti-psychotic medication that he needs every month. The inmate was “suffering from a psychotic episode due to a lack of proper medical care by defendant Correctional Health Partners” when he strangled Kendrick, the suit alleges.

The Jan. 27, 2021, experience took a physical and psychological toll on Kendrick, who resigned from her more than 25-year career with the sheriff’s office in December, the suit said. She suffered from headaches and an injured neck as a result of the attack, and underwent months of physical therapy and medical attention, the suit said.

Kendrick, of Carbondale, declined to comment Monday. The attorneys who filed her case, William Argeros of Redstone and Ian D. Kalmanowitz of Colorado Springs, were not available for immediate comment, and Correctional Health Partners did not return messages.

According to the lawsuit, CHP was responsible for prescribing and dispensing medication to all inmates at the jail. It also contracted with Mind Springs to be its mental health provider, the suit said.

“Under the agreement between CHP and Pitkin County, CHP controlled all aspects of health care and mental health treatment and care available to inmates,” the suit said.

The inmate who attacked Kendrick was in the Pitkin County Jail awaiting trial for his alleged assault on a custodian who was cleaning a water fountain at Aspen Elementary School. Like Kendrick, the custodian was strangled unprovoked while on the job, the suit says.

The school assault was in October 2020. Responding authorities took the inmate to Aspen Valley Hospital where he was evaluated and placed on a mental health court because he was considered a danger to himself and others. It was at least the second mental health seizure the man underwent in 2020, the suit said, noting that he was hospitalized “after being pulled over by Aspen police for strange behavior, including running around naked and attempting to breaking into the Little Nell Hotel. ,” according to the suit.

An AVH physician approved his release on October 27 after finding his condition stabilized and “no longer exhibiting psychosis and mania.” The prisoner was transferred to the prison for the alleged assault on the warden, as well as a series of house burglaries that he was suspected of.

The suit says that an “advocate” for the inmate contacted a Mind Springs clinician that November to raise the alarm that he “was not receiving the correct medication and to request that a diagnostic evaluation be performed.” The attorney told the inmate’s clinic again in early December that he was not doing well and “needs to be on the right medicine,” the suit says.

Only on December 17, about five weeks before the assault on Kendrick, was the prisoner injected with antipsychotic medication. His previous injection was Oct. 5, the suit says.

Kendrick was working as a detention deputy the morning of the assault, the suit states. The inmate was transferred to an observation cell the same day because he did not feel safe among the prison’s general population, the suit states. Unlike a regular cell with bars, the observation cell had windows and a door, meaning the only way Kendrick could communicate with the inmate was by entering the cell.

That’s what she did when she opened the door to ask the inmate if he was hungry for breakfast, after which he “jumped up from his mattress and pushed him out of the cell,” the suit says.

“The cell door was open for about three to four seconds before (the prisoner) forced his way out of the cell. After forcing his way out of the cell, (the inmate) grabbed Ms. Kendrick by the neck with both hands. Mr. Gonzales then quickly moved his hands and placed one on the back of her head and one under her chin. Mr. Gonzales then told Ms. Kendrick’s head violently twisted with his hands in what appeared to be a serious attempt to kill Ms. breaking Kendrick’s neck. While Ms. As Kendrick fought back against (the inmate’s) attack, two deputies intervened to break his stranglehold on her neck. The two deputies could not immediately subdue (the prisoner) or gain control over him. Ms. Kendrick and another deputy then joined the two deputies in an attempt to subdue (the inmate). Mrs. Kendrick and the three other deputies struggled with (the inmate) for more than three minutes before they were able to gain sufficient control of him to secure him to a chair.”

Kendrick believed the man belonged in a hospital, not a jail, the suit says. She expressed that sentiment to a CHP employee, who responded, according to the lawsuit, “That’s what happens when you take people off their medication.”

Kendrick was a valued employee and was named Pitkin County’s Employee of the Year for 2017, the suit states. She worked as a dispatcher from 1982-84, worked at the jail from 1988-92, was a deputy sheriff from November 2004 to December 18, 2021, the suit states. She was 62 years old at the time of the attack, according to the suit.

“Mrs. Kendrick’s duties as a deputy sheriff who worked at the jail involved working to maintain the safety and security of inmates and staff, providing custody and control of inmates, maintaining order and discipline in the jail, and providing protection for the health and safety of prisoners. suit says

She and the three deputies in the attack were awarded Pitkin County Medals of Honor for their “sacrifice in a single event demonstrating valor, heroism and/or self-sacrifice, clearly distinguishing the individuals for bravery and valor under life-threatening circumstances.” according to a Facebook post from the sheriff’s office in February 2021.

The lawsuit’s single claim is for negligence and seeks compensation for Kendrick’s physical injuries, pain and suffering, emotional distress, economic losses and consequential damages. It was filed in Pitkin County District Court last week and demands a jury trial.

CHP entered into a contract with Pitkin County in February 2020 to provide a “health care program for the jail in a manner consistent with the mission of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office to provide a safe, secure and humane environment for inmates and staff to provide,” the suit said. The county paid the agency $349,241 through December 2020, according to county records.

Turn Key Health Clinics, which CHP acquired in July 2022, currently provides medical service at the jail eight hours a day, seven days a week, according to Marci Suazo, Pitkin County communications manager. Turn Key also handles the jail-based behavioral services program, Suazo said.


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