Crime, Law and Justice

Lawsuit accuses Anoka County of keeping withdrawal medication from jail inmate

The exterior of a government building
The Anoka County Government Center and Courthouse in August 2021 in Anoka.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

A federal lawsuit accuses Anoka County and several jail employees of “deliberate indifference” to the medical needs of a former jail inmate going through heroin withdrawal who eventually suffered a brain injury.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Deyonta Green, names Anoka County, two unidentified correctional officers and three jail medical staff. 

It’s the latest lawsuit to allege inadequate medical care at a county jail under contract with MEnD Correctional Care, a Sartell-based private jail medical provider that filed for bankruptcy in 2022.

Green, then 25, was booked into the Anoka County jail on Feb. 5, 2022, after failing to report for a sentence for felony possession of a controlled substance. He acknowledged using heroin earlier that day, according to the civil complaint.

Over the next several days, Green suffered severe withdrawal symptoms, including uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting, the complaint states.

Green had a valid prescription for Suboxone, a medication that reduces opioid withdrawal symptoms. But jail staff withheld it from him and instead provided him with “band-aid” medications for nausea and anxiety and over-the-counter pain relievers, the complaint states.

The lawsuit claims that despite his deteriorating condition, Green wasn’t provided medical care. 

On Feb. 12, Green was found in his cell, covered in vomit, after an apparent fall. He was taken to a hospital, where doctors determined he had suffered a fractured skull, brain bleeds and acute kidney failure, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint accuses jail staff of failing to check on Green frequently enough, especially given his symptoms.

It also faults Anoka County for contracting with MEnD Correctional Care in 2020, despite knowing that the jail medical provider was the target of several lawsuits and multi-million-dollar settlements over inadequate care.

“They’re coming into this contract at a time when other counties are looking for ways out because of all the bad things that have happened,” said attorney Kathryn Bennett with the law firm Robins Kaplan, which is representing Green.

Anoka County actually raised concerns about inadequate staffing and other issues in letters to MEnD in December 2021 and January 2022, the lawsuit states. Yet, the county did not terminate its contract with MEnD, Bennett said.

Anoka County spokesperson Erik Thorson said the county will review the complaint before responding.

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