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Lawsuit claims overdose victim at St. Louis workhouse could have been saved

Lawsuit claims overdose victim at St. Louis workhouse could have been saved

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ST. LOUIS − A man’s life could have been saved at the city’s Medium Security Institution, the jail known as the workhouse, if correctional officers would have been properly equipped, trained and willing to quickly help an inmate who died from an overdose, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

The case, filed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Missouri, claims that Louis L. Payton, 48, was deprived of his right to “be free from deliberate indifference to his medical needs” while being held as a pretrial detainee at the jail, and that the city has a policy of “inadequately equipping correctional staff to respond timely to the opioid crisis.”

After Payton fell unconscious in a common area of the jail on Aug. 1, 2018, other inmates apparently yelled for help while trying to revive him with ice. They told correctional officers standing in a hallway that he was dying, to which one of the officers allegedly said that it wasn’t his “job to deal with Mr. Payton’s medical emergency.”

The lawsuit claims that it took nearly five minutes for correctional officers to come into the common area to assess the situation and more than nine minutes for nurses from Corizon Medical Services to ultimately administer the overdose reversing drug naloxone on Payton and start breathing support. He was eventually taken by ambulance to a hospital and pronounced dead.

“Had Mr. Payton received breathing support and administration of naloxone, the staff would have been able to reverse his opioid overdose,” the lawsuit, filed by Arch City Defenders on behalf of Payton’s mother, argues about the correctional officers on duty.

The workhouse has been targeted by activists in recent years who want the old facility at 7600 Hall Street closed down for numerous reasons. Some members of the Board of Aldermen also are trying to eliminate funding for the workhouse in next year’s city budget, which goes into effect on Wednesday.

Monday’s lawsuit claims that correctional officers are not allowed to carry naloxone and that they are not properly trained and supervised to “respond immediately to detainee emergencies.”

Named as defendants: the city of St. Louis; Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass, Workhouse Superintendent Jeffrey Carson, a lieutenant and three correctional officers.

Reached by phone Monday, Carson said he hadn’t yet read the lawsuit and referred questions to Glass. Glass wasn’t aware of the lawsuit, but confirmed that correctional officers don’t carry naloxone. Asked why, he said: “When we looked at that issue, we determined that our medical staff will respond and carry it.”

Jacob Long, spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson, said the city doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Correctional officers inside state prisons also do not carry naloxone. Just medical staff administer the drug, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Corrections said Monday.

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