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Family sues after daughter dies in Washington County Jail

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The family of Madaline Pitkin filed a $20 million lawsuit Wednesday against Washington County, Corizon Health, INC, and others, after the 26-year-old died in her jail cell in 2014.

Pitkin died in her cell seven days after she was booked in the Washington County Jail. Corizon, at the time, was hired by the county to provide medical services to the jail.

Others are also named in the lawsuit, including Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett.

Pitkin was a heroin addict. She suffered from withdrawals. The lawsuit alleges medical malpractice, saying professionals didn’t act quickly enough to help her during detoxification, even after she repeatedly told them, she needed help, and said she felt near death.

“I just can’t imagine people that are so heartless, maybe they don’t view prisoners as people, I don’t know I just can’t imagine not helping,” said her mother, Mary Pitkin.

Pitkin Complaint by KGW News on Scribd

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office, in a statement, said “Further disappointing is the fact that in the two years from Ms. Pitkin’s death, Corizon remains unwilling to resolve this claim without forcing Ms. Pitkin’s family to file a federal lawsuit and relive their daughter’s tragic death.”

And goes on to say, “Corizon took a similar approach in dealing with the death of an Oregon inmate at another jail, Kelly Conrad Green, who died under their care in 2013. Corizon settled the Green case last year shortly before trial by paying Green’s family seven million dollars. As a result of these facts, and because Corizon refuses to comply with contract provisions which require they indemnify the County for Corizon’s negligent performance, Washington County will likely join plaintiff in filing claims against Corizon related to this incident.”

In 2015, Washington County began contracting with a new medical provider for the jail.

Corizon Health, in a statement, said “We are unable to provide you with a comment due to patient privacy laws and the litigation you cited.”

Sheriff Pat Garrett released the following statement:

Dear Washington County residents,

Madaline Pitkin died in the Washington County Jail on April 24, 2014. She passed due to complications of chronic intravenous drug abuse. This week, Ms. Pitkin's parents filed a lawsuit against Washington County and Corizon Health Care, the jail's health care provider at that time. While the media is sharing various aspects of her story, I want to share my thoughts with you directly.

Most important, I believe Ms. Pitkin's death to be a tragedy, and I am very sorry this happened to her. As Sheriff, I accept that this happened on my watch, and that I am responsible to do everything possible to ensure it does not happen again. I want you to know that this is not a case of uncaring jail staff. In fact, deputies contacted Corizon multiple times out of concern for Ms. Pitkin's condition. As a result, she was moved to the jail medical observation unit. We have learned a great deal from this tragedy, and we have already made positive changes.

The county now contracts with a new medical provider, NaphCare, for all jail health services. NaphCare is an exceptional provider that is patient-focused and attentive. Medical and jail staff work in collaboration like never before, and tremendous efficiency and service improvements have been made possible. The benefits go beyond the borders of our jail.

Inmates, even those in jail only a short time, are receiving full medical assessments and treatment for life-threatening conditions upon arrival. Recently, a newly arrested inmate was diagnosed with active Tuberculosis during an initial medical assessment. Though only in jail a few days, the inmate was quarantined and received treatment. NaphCare staff also coordinated with public health officials during the inmate's incarceration to ensure continuity of care upon release back into the community. Other inmates have been diagnosed with liver disease, kidney failure, and many other chronic care conditions that threaten their lives not only while in jail, but after leaving.

I have been so impressed by the new level of jail medical services, that I was moved to testify at a House Interim Committee on Health Care in Salem. I encouraged support for all Oregon counties to help improve inmate health. Further, I believe it is likely that Washington County will join the family in filing claims against Corizon for this incident.

My staff has asked that we take one additional step to honor Ms. Pitkin's life. The Washington County Sheriff's Office will increase efforts to protect others by educating our community on the dangers and signs of heroin use. I will also continue to advocate for funding locally and statewide for treatment of people struggling with addiction.

On behalf of all the men and women of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, I extend our deepest condolences and sympathy to Ms. Pitkin's family and friends.