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Orange County Florida Jail Allows Methadone After Two Deaths

An Article By Terence T. Gorski
GORSKI-CENAPS Web Publications
Published On: <DATE>          Updated On: January 26, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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Orange County Florida Jail Allows Methadone  After Two Deaths 010806

The Orange County Florida Jail has decided to begin administering methadone to some inmates two months after a second inmate died during methadone withdrawal.  Medical complaints by inmates sufferring from Methadone withdrawal will be taken more seriously and given prompt attention.  It is tragic that two inmates need to die unnecessarily for a jail to recognize that withdrawal from narcotic drugs is a serious medical condition requiring treatment.

Terence T. Gorski
August 6, 2001

Orange County Florida Jail Allows Methadone  After Two Deaths 010806

On august 2, 2000 The Orlando Sentinel reported that the Orange County Florida Jail has decided to begin administering methadone to some inmates two months after a second inmate died during methadone withdrawal.  Initially, the agreement to continue patients' doctor-prescribed treatment behind bars will extend only to clients of The Center for Drug-Free Living in Orlando, Central Florida's largest, private nonprofit drug-treatment center.  But negotiations are under way with three other Central Florida methadone clinics for similar agreements, said County Chairman Rich Crotty, who had urged the jail to change the policy.

Crotty was referring to the deaths of inmates Karen Johnson and Susan Bennett. Johnson, 43, and Bennett, 42, had been on methadone treatment to break addictions to painkillers. Both died in methadone withdrawal, Johnson on June 7 and Bennett in 1997.

Until now, the jail's policy called for inmates on methadone -- a synthetic narcotic used to wean addicts from heroin and opiate painkiller addictions -- to withdraw cold turkey. Methadone withdrawal can cause severe distress, such as continual vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and seizures. The jail's policies warned that methadone withdrawal can be fatal.

Under the new guidelines, when inmates say they are on methadone treatment, jail medical staff will verify that information with The Center for Drug-Free Living -- and other centers once they are on board. The center will send seven days' worth of dosages in a lockbox to the jail pharmacy; he courier will not have a key to the box. Jail nurses will administer the dosages. Physicians at the jail and the center will collaborate on any medical problems that might arise.

The jail's guidelines also will be changed so that inmates who are withdrawing from methadone will get medical attention sooner.

Ron McAndrew, the interim jail director, said he hoped to work out similar arrangements with three other licensed methadone-providers: The Orlando Methadone Treatment Center and The Central Florida Treatment Clinic, both in Orange County, and The Mid-Florida Methadone Center in Osceola County.  McAndrew said he had started discussions with The Central Florida Treatment Center and had been unable to reach the other directors.

Several clinic directors estimated that at any given time, some inmates are undergoing methadone withdrawal at the jail.  The center's spokeswoman said inmates would pay for their treatments while behind bars just as they do at the clinic -- by paying out-of- pocket, 
through insurance or Medicaid.

The new methadone policy was cheered by former state Rep. Bill Sublette, who heads up a task force looking into several issues at the jail, including medical services.

The Chairman's Jail Oversight Commission will study the methadone policy, with an eye toward making it permanent, Crotty said.

He also announced the final support staff who will assist more than a dozen community leaders on the commission. They include County Criminal Justice Coordinator Walt Gallagher, who will be staff director, and county employees Ron Johnson, Rene Rodon, Bob Pickerill and Steve Smith.

Newshawk: Sledhead -
Pubdate: Thu, 02 Aug 2001
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)
Copyright: 2001 Orlando Sentinel
Author: Doris Bloodsworth


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