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Armor Correctional Healthcare Denies Liability in Detainee’s Death From Missed Medication at Duval County Jail

by Chuck Sharman

In a statement to a local Jacksonville news station on June 6, 2023, the healthcare provider for at the Duval County Jail denied wrongdoing in the death of a former detainee who missed critical doses of drugs to prevent rejection of his transplanted heart. Instead, Armor Correctional Healthcare Services insisted to NPR affiliate WGCU that other factors were to blame for the death of Dexter Barry on November 23, 2022. It also said that the 54-year-old’s medication was ordered and did not arrive on time.

Barry’s family and their attorney, Andrew Bonderud, noted that Barry took his anti-rejection medication three times a day. Consequently, he would have missed at least five doses during the two days he spent in the jail after Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) Deputy Jacob McKeon arrested Barry on November 18, 2023. He was released two days later. He died three days after that when his heart stopped.

An autopsy conducted for his family concluded that his fatal cardiac arrest likely resulted from a severe autoimmune reaction to his transplanted heart. But Dr. Jose SuarezHoyos added, “As a general pathologist, I do not feel qualified to give a professional opinion as to the effect of discontinuation of the anti-immune therapy to this patient for 2-3 days.”

In response to accusations surrounding Barry’s death, Armor Health Chief Operating Officer Manuel Fernandez released the statement countering claims his firm was at fault.

“Regarding specific medication that is prescribed for transplant patients,” Fernandez said, “that medication was ordered and takes 48 hours at a minimum to be located and an additional 8 – 12 hours to be received by the jail and then administered. By the time that highly specialized medication was available, the individual was released from custody.”

So why not simply allow Barry to take his medication with him? That’s against policy at the jail in Jacksonville, and at most other U.S. jails. However, JSO could have made an exception, insisted Rich Forbus, of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.

“You can verify that the pills are what they should be and that the person has a prescription,” he said. “This should’ve been something that went up to a command level to have someone make a decision on how to handle it.”

Then there is the ludicrous reason for Barry’s arrest: Verbally threatening a disabled and blind neighbor whom Barry accused of stealing Wi-Fi access. Though he had walked away from the altercation, Barry was taken to the jail “to cool off,” Deputy McKeon told him. His body camera footage recorded Barry repeatedly stating his urgent need for heart medication. Court documents confirm he also informed Judge Gilbert Feltel about his medication requirements during his court appearance.

Armor Health changed the subject from Barry’s missed drugs to his autopsy findings, noting that “the patient had a number of other clinical issues [which] were likely to contribute to the cause of his passing.”

But regarding allegations that it withheld the medication to save money, the firm insisted that it “does not benefit in any way, financially or otherwise, from not ordering or not dispensing medication.” The Miami-based company holds a $98 million contract that includes payment for medications provided in the jail up to a specified amount, beyond which it is reimbursed by JSO.

Berry’s death spotlights the urgent need to address medical care within jails. It also provides a visceral reminder of profound consequences that can arise when detainees don’t get essential medications they need.

Sources: Jacksonville Tributary, WGCU, WTLV-WJXX

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