FOX 11 Investigates delays in jail getting prescribed meds

Four hundred inmates are being held in the Outagamie County Jail. Sheriff's officials say one-fourth on average come in taking prescribed medication. (Mark Leland/WLUK)

APPLETON (WLUK) - Many inmates booked into county jails are under a doctor’s care for a variety of health concerns. They come into the jail that way, but FOX 11 Investigates found their prescribed medications don’t always follow them in a timely manner.

Out of the 400 or so men and women behind bars tonight at the Outagamie County Jail, roughly 100 have a doctor’s prescription for medication. Undersheriff Michael Jobe says inmates are being treated for everything from anxiety to diabetes to high blood pressure to pain.

FOX 11 Investigates got a look at the medicines awaiting delivery to inmates. The nursing staff at the jail hands out the prescriptions twice a day.

"We usually have meds set up pretty quickly. We get them, count them in, we call our doctor, we get approval, we set them up," said a nurse working in the Outagamie County Jail.

FOX 11 is told the process usually takes a day. But FOX 11 Investigates found that’s not always the case.

"She’s stressed, she’s scared because she’s afraid she’s going to lose the baby," said Denise Diedrich.

FOX 11 Investigates spoke with Denise Diedrich of Kaukauna back in December. Her pregnant daughter had been booked into the Outagamie County Jail several days earlier. But during that time says she was not given her prenatal vitamins.

"She should be and she’s been charged for them but has never received any of them," said Diedrich, indicating her daughter had been waiting for almost a week. "No prenatal vitamins, nothing to help her with her baby."

FOX 11 Investigates followed up, sending a message directly to the jail administrator, Capt. Dave Kiesner.

Kiesner responded, writing, ”Thanks for letting me know. I’ll follow up with medical and insure she is getting prenatal vitamins.

The following day Diedrich confirmed in a text her daughter got her prenatal vitamin -- in addition to extra milk, juice, bread and peanut butter, she hadn’t received the day before.

Lisa Hanneman says her son Nathan waited three days for his anti-seizure pills in 2015.

"And I brought them up there the same day he walked in there," said Hanneman.

Since then, Hanneman has been an advocate for other families with loved ones in jail. She’s met dozens who say the delays haven’t improved.

"The average is about three to four days. Or lost medications and they don’t get it at all," said Hanneman.

The biggest concern is potentially serious side effects of abruptly stopping some medications. Even the drug companies warn of possible side effects.

Some of the side effects are suicidal tendencies, anger, aggression. FOX 11 Investigates asked the undersheriff if those side effects were viewed as a problem.

"Well, there’s no other way to do this other than under the direction of a physician," explained Jobe.

"Three days is not reasonable if you are on lithium, or even you’re schizophrenic and you don’t have your medication, or you have glaucoma and you don’t have your medication," said Hanneman.

Family concerns are frequently raised with the county's Public Safety Committee. Outagamie County Sheriff Brad Gehring suggested in front of the county's Public Safety Committee meeting that the jail's contracted medical care provider, Correct Care Solutions, had been short-staffed.

"I don't know how many meetings we've had with the contracted provider. They're having staffing shortages that they’re dealing with," said Gehring at the committee's December meeting.

Sheriff’s officials say there is another reason for delays in getting inmates their prescribed medicine: the inmates themselves. Some of them, we’re told, don’t initially disclose they are taking medication. Others lie about what they are taking. And sheriff's officials say sorting all that out takes time.

"There’s a process that has to be gone through because once a person is in our facility we become responsible for their health care," said Jobe. "You can’t take somebody’s word for it."

Family members trying to improve the system say not all inmates should be judged on a few bad apples.

"When is anybody going to listen, when is anybody going to care?" said Diedrich. "These are real people, kids, moms, dads, whatever, people love them just like anybody else. They need their medication."

Last year Outagamie County spent more than $900,000 on inmate health care administered by Correct Care Solutions. FOX 11 Investigates spoke with a CCS nurse named Beverly. She asked us not to reveal her last name due to her interactions with inmates.

"The process is supposed to be a fairly quick one. With over 400 people here in jail, it isn’t something that’s going to happen immediately. And even though we’re pretty great at our jobs, none of us are mind readers," said Beverly.

Beverly admits some inmates may have had to wait three or more days for prescribed medication.

"Is it a normal thing? No," indicated Beverly.

The contract with CCS calls for a nurse on duty 24 hours a day, a mental health professional 60 hours a week, a full-time director of nursing, and a physician on call.

"I appreciated the fact that there’s concerns with the delivery. I get that," said Gehring. "But there’s also, for every suggestion that someone didn’t get their medication, there’s always a story there."

Gehring has requested a county Risk Administration Evaluation of the medication delivery system. That evaluation is expected to determine how or if the process of delivering medications can be improved.

There’s no indication when the evaluation will be complete, but the sheriff indicates his department is cooperating fully.

Click here for Outagamie County Jail information including details regarding health services for inmates.

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