KUNA (Idaho Statesman) — A Type 1 diabetic prisoner has sued Idaho Department of Correction’s medical provider and alleged the company has “bungled, mismanaged, and ignored” his constant requests for medical care, even refusing him insulin on one occasion.
Jacob Frey, 41, who resides at the Idaho State Correctional Institution in Kuna, filed a civil rights lawsuit against Centurion Health, which provides health care for those incarcerated at IDOC’s facilities. Frey named as defendants nearly a dozen current and former Centurion Health employees and several IDOC employees in the lawsuit, including Centurion Health Regional Medical Director Murray Young and Tyrell Davis, the warden of Idaho State Correctional Institution.
In the 28-page lawsuit, Frey’s Boise-based attorney, Craig Durham, alleged medical and prison officials refused to give Frey an insulin pump and glucometer to manage his blood glucose levels, often referred to as blood sugar, which has “fluctuated widely” since being in prison. Instead, Frey was dependent on medical staff to test his glucose levels and administer his insulin three times a day, the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, Frey was only allowed to have a glucometer for a few months while he was being housed at the Idaho State Correctional Center. Since the lawsuit was filed, Frey was given a glucometer but still relies on staff to provide his daily insulin, Durham told the Idaho Statesman.
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The lawsuit alleged there have been “frequent disruptions” to Frey’s schedule because the insulin arrives too early or the meals too late. People who are dependent on insulin must eat food within a short time of getting their medication.
“Mr. Frey’s diabetes has not been well-controlled for nearly three years now, despite his repeated requests for a common medical device that had controlled his disease in the past,” Durham wrote in the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Centurion Health and IDOC officials told Frey that insulin pumps and glucometers are a security concern but didn’t elaborate. IDOC spokesperson Sanda Kuzeta-Cerimagic declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
Kuzeta-Cerimagic also declined to comment about the correctional department’s general policies regarding insulin pumps and glucometers. Centurion Health didn’t respond to an email from the Statesman, and the company’s media line went straight to voicemail.
‘ROUGH NIGHT’ WITHOUT INSULIN
Frey’s glucose was “relatively well-controlled” before going to prison in 2020 with the use of an insulin pump, the lawsuit said. The Kootenai County Jail in North Idaho, where Frey was in custody before being convicted of aggravated assault, eluding a police officer and an enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon, allowed him to use an insulin pump, according to the lawsuit.
In September 2022, Frey’s glucose levels were “extremely high” after missing a dosage of insulin at the Idaho State Correctional Center, according to the lawsuit. The complaint alleged he was beginning to develop symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis — a life-threatening complication from not getting enough insulin.
Frey was called to the medical unit, which was “some distance” from his housing unit, to receive his insulin at around 3 p.m. Sept. 9, 2022, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that when the medical staffers were dealing with “chronic short staffing,” they’d ask residents to come to the medical unit instead of distributing the medication themselves. Frey, who was in a wheelchair at the time for a broken ankle, and the individual who was helping to push his wheelchair was told it would be a long wait before he can get care and decided to return to his housing unit.
Frey believed he’d be able to get insulin later, and after testing his glucose levels with a glucometer and seeing his levels, he asked several correctional officers for help, the lawsuit said. One of the officers, Matthew Miller, contacted Centurion Health nurse Hillary Koehler, who told Miller that Frey had refused his insulin so he wouldn’t be getting any that night, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint alleged Miller also contacted Nathan Thueson, a correctional medical specialist for Centurion Health, who told Miller that Frey was in for a “rough night.” IDOC Lt. Jamie Ayuso also gave the officers a “direct order” not to call an emergency because Frey didn’t need medical assistance, the lawsuit said.
Hillary didn’t check Frey’s glucose levels until the next morning, the lawsuit said, and Frey throughout the night was weak, sweating, urinating frequently, extremely thirsty and experiencing muscle cramps — all symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that individuals go to an emergency room or call 911 if their blood glucose stays at 300 mg/dL or above. Frey’s that next morning was between 500 and 600 mg/dL, according to the lawsuit.
FREY RECEIVED ‘SIMILARLY POOR-QUALITY CARE’ BEFORE
It wasn’t the first time Frey had trouble seeking medical care in prison, according to the complaint.
Frey also received “similarly poor-quality care” for a broken ankle, the lawsuit said. In May 2021, Frey’s ankle was broken and it wasn’t until nearly a year later after months of delayed appointments that Frey would see an orthopedic surgeon. In the meantime, Frey was given a “poorly fitted” splint and a wheelchair, the lawsuit said.
By May 2022, the orthopedic surgeon decided Frey needed surgery and scheduled appointments. But Frey never made it to those appointments because the next month, in June 2022, he was transferred from one prison to another, which “significantly disrupted the continuity of his care,” the lawsuit said.
It wasn’t until November 2022 that Frey was transferred back to the Idaho State Correctional Institution and told he’d be getting surgery, the complaint said. By then, the orthopedic surgeon had left the clinic, and the new doctor who saw Frey said his ankle had healed on its own.
Durham told the Statesman in a phone interview that Frey is no longer in a wheelchair but has “lingering pain” from the nontreated injury and still has difficulty walking. Durham said Frey has diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage, that is also affecting Frey’s ability to walk.
Durham said he’s been contacted by many incarcerated people seeking medical help, and that it’s a “common pattern” for Idaho’s incarcerated population — especially those with chronic conditions — to not receive timely and effective health care.
“There’s certainly a problem with the quality of medical care throughout the Idaho prison system,” Durham said.
Read the lawsuit here.
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