Pubdate: Sun, 10 Apr 2016
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2016 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Zaz Hollander


WASILLA -- Kellsie Green died in January, six days after she entered 
the Anchorage jail -- 24 years old, weighing only about 80 pounds and 
about to embark on the brutal process of detoxing from a 4-gram-a-day 
heroin habit.

Now Green's father is claiming in a civil wrongful death lawsuit 
filed late last month against the Alaska Department of Corrections 
that the brief jail sentence he'd hoped would save her life instead 
led to her death.

John Green said his daughter's cellmates at the Anchorage jail told 
him requests to help Kellsie went mostly ignored even as her 
condition worsened to the point she could no longer stand, vomited 
blood and soiled herself.

"The lack of compassion for somebody that's going through this -- how 
can that be?" the Wasilla resident said during a recent interview. 
"This isn't a jail in Turkey or somewhere. This is America."

Kellsie's death certificate shows she died from malnutrition, 
dehydration, renal failure and heart dysrhythmia, he said in an email.

The Alaska Correctional Officers Association is disputing the story 
Kellsie Green's cellmates told about requests for help being ignored. 
A representative said correctional officers tried to get help from 
medical staff.

Green's death has already changed the way DOC monitors inmates going 
through withdrawal.

More monitoring

The state corrections department is still reviewing the circumstances 
surrounding Green's death, a spokesperson said Thursday.

Corrections is also "working on ways to improve the treatment and 
care of offenders who go through withdrawals," spokesperson Corey 
Allen-Young wrote in an email.

Since Green's death, the state has established an "enhanced detox 
monitoring system ... to ensure closer medical monitoring during withdrawal."

He described several new steps initiated under the monitoring system 
in an email Friday:

Inmates who need a higher level of medical monitoring go to a medical 
segregation unit. Once released, they go to an intake unit but are 
brought back to medical clinic three times a day, with nursing staff 
making rounds twice at night. Inmates in withdrawal can be assigned 
an inmate caregiver.

"There are now designated cells in the intake units for inmates on 
withdrawal protocols," Allen-Young wrote. "This makes it easier to 
identify who is on withdrawal protocols and allows staff to more 
closely monitor inmates for changes in the severity of symptoms.

Generally, he said, patients in withdrawal are checked "at regular 
intervals" and receive treatment for symptoms if necessary, including 
medication to block or soften the response of the sympathetic nervous 
system to opiate withdrawal, anti-nausea and anti-anxiety 
medications, as well as anti-seizure and anti-psychotic medications 
where needed.

Correctional officers are trained to recognize signs of withdrawal 
and report any observations to medical staff, Allen-Young said.

Wrongful death lawsuit

The suit, filed in late March by Anchorage attorney Jason Skala and 
Caliber Law Group LLC, charges the department "failed and/or refused 
to provide Ms. Green with adequate medical care during obvious and 
serious withdrawal symptoms."

Green is seeking more than $100,000 in damages for past medical 
expenses, lost wages, funeral expenses and attorney fees, with the 
exact amount to be determined by a judge.

Kellsie Green's drug addiction was "apparent and obvious," the suit 
charges, as evidenced by the fact she was in possession of heroin 
when she went to jail.

Because Green was deprived of the right to make her own decisions, 
Corrections had a duty to identify withdrawal symptoms, refer Green 
to a medical facility for treatment, approve her transfer to a detox 
facility and not knowingly cause her to "suffer severe and prolonged 
physical pain and suffering during life threatening withdrawals," the 
suit states.

The state failed to provide adequate training to employees, resulting 
in a substandard level of understanding of reporting, care and 
supervision of prisoners during detox, it claims.

Few options for detox outside jail

Green's wrongful death lawsuit could have far-reaching implications. 
Many addicts in Alaska end up detoxing in jail after getting arrested 
on drug-or alcohol-related crimes.

Detox is the process of clearing the chemical dependence on drugs or 
alcohol from an addict's system. Most experts advise doing it under 
medical supervision. Symptoms of heroin withdrawal can include 
nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or seizures, though it is not generally 
considered life-threatening in the way alcohol detox can be.

The only option in Southcentral for inpatient detox is the 14-bed 
Ernie Turner Center, operated by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council in Anchorage.

Kellsie Green didn't have a vehicle so she didn't try to get on the 
waitlist at Ernie Turner, her father said. But he and Kellsie's 
mother sent her to a rehabilitation facility in Arizona.

"And she walked out in two days," he said.

John Green said Kellsie's cellmates told him his daughter was sick 
from the start -- she was weak and dehydrated. She was given an 
open-topped plastic shell on the floor to sleep in, known as a "boat" 
and used to combat overcrowding in jails around the country. The 
women helped Kellsie to the shower and cleaned her up, the women told Green.

The cellmates told Green they tried and failed to get medical help 
for Kellsie. Correctional officers told them they'd get written up if 
they kept hitting alarms.

Kellsie told one of her cellmates, "I'm gonna die in here," Green said.

Four days into her time, medical staff did administer intravenous 
fluids and anti-nausea medications, he was told. By Saturday, Kellsie 
was throwing up blood and could no longer stand up, he said he was 
told. She soiled herself. A correctional officer took her to the shower.

Then his daughter was moved out of the cell and into solitary 
confinement, Green said.

Corrections officers found Kellsie unresponsive in her cell the 
morning of Sunday, Jan. 10, according to the lawsuit. CPR was 
initiated. She was declared dead at Alaska Regional Hospital at 10:38 a.m.

'All inmates say they are dying'

The correction officers association, however, issued a statement 
Friday saying the two women in a cell with Kellsie Green weren't 
telling the entire truth to her father, at least as he recalled it. 
The women were "angry and hostile" and were calling officers to get 
Green out of the cell with them, according to the statement, emailed 
by ACOA business manager Brad Wilson.

Officers eventually had to remove Green from the cell and put her in 
another one, the statement said. Officers responded every time the 
call button was pushed.

When officers asked medical staff to make sure Green was safe, they 
were told words to the effect of "all inmates say they are dying; she 
is not dying. She was just released from Medical Segregation and she 
is fine," the statement said. "Detoxing is very painful and there are 
many people detoxing every day in the Department of Corrections. 
Correctional Officers do not have the final say on an inmate being 
seen by or released from medical."

Corrections spokesman Allen-Young said the agency couldn't respond to 
the association's remarks due to the ongoing lawsuit.

Hope lost

Kellsie Green attended Wasilla and Burchell high schools and 
graduated from the Military Youth Academy in 2007, according to her 
obituary. She attended Church on the Rock and worked at Three Bears, 
Denali Restaurant and as a massage therapist. Family described her as 
sweet, funny, generous, loving and kind-hearted.

Kellsie was picked up by Alaska State Troopers in January.

Her parents called them.

Her father said he and her mother decided that jail time was the only 
chance Kellsie had to get healthy again. She was living with her 
mother and had stolen checks, a gun, a credit card.

She also was wanted on a warrant for failing to complete 80 hours of 
community service ordered on a March 2015 arrest for driving on a 
suspended or revoked license.

"We begged them to arrest her," John Green said.

Troopers picked Kellsie up at the Chevron gas station at Settlers 
Bay, near Wasilla. She was to serve a 10-day sentence starting Jan. 5.

Green called jail the last hope for many parents of addicts.

"We wholeheartedly believed it would keep her alive," he said.
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